Fear The Reaper

The following article was first published at the Nexus Newsfeed website on the 18th of June 2017. It is a shining example of the kind of gonzo journalism that I really enjoy working on, and neatly straddles the divide between social commentary and outright sarcasm. It is designed as a response to the ever present media scaremongering that seems to dog the field of paranormal investigation, as well as offer some common sense insights to those who seek to explore the world of the weird after dark.


Fear the Reaper
The Real World Dangers of Modern Paranormal Investigation
By Gavin Fox

To the outside observer, ghost hunting can appear to be a dangerous pastime. While the majority of discussions in this regard seem to revolve around the possibility of something nasty following you home, it is actually the more mundane aspects of working in derelict and abandoned properties that can be the biggest problem for paranormal researchers. That, and the fact that the law is rarely on our side. While many variations exist, there does seem to be a general consensus regarding the three most basic rules involved in conducting a safe investigation. That such a thread can be found within the constitution of even the smallest group is unsurprising, as the price for ignoring the following common sense concepts can be deadly.

Rule one, ask permission of the landowner and do not under any circumstances trespass on private property. No matter how haunted a building is supposed to be, is that pretty little orb photograph worth doing jail time for? As anyone with a background in urban exploring knows, it can quickly reach the point that more time is spent dodging security guards than snapping photos. Big companies make their bread and butter from keeping people out after hours, and judges always have time to sentence the unlucky few who are caught.

Two, get know the building before you turn off the lights, especially if it is derelict. Even with the press that Zak Bagans generated by wearing a respirator mask in later seasons of Ghost Adventures, most people still ignore the dangers that can be present in the fabric of older buildings. Asbestos for example, or respiratory disease causing moulds just minding their own business in the dark, waiting to ruin your life. For the really poorly prepared though, there is nothing like falling through a gaping hole in the floor and landing on a pile of rusty pipes in the basement to solve that afterlife question once and for all.

And three, while you should never investigate alone, you should also choose your companions well. So your friend Bob has a car with enough trunk space to get you and your equipment to the haunted location, but also spends most of his time more drunk than a secondary school teacher on the first day of term? John has the connections to get you and your group inside that spooky old hospital, but has a nasty habit of going crazy with his knife collection when he is up on cocaine? Jess is an excellent medium, but also has suicidal tendencies and an irrational fear of the dark? Any of these sound like the best people to be hanging around a remote castle with at three in the morning?

The consequences that arise from ignoring the first rule are all to apparent to anyone who reads the news. Numerous states in America are now actioning a zero tolerance policy towards what they see as acts of vandalism against their heritage, and the police in the United Kingdom have always taken a dim view of trespassing on private property.

Take the numerous people arrested in and around the derelict Lima Tuberculosis Hospital, Ohio, for example. All are facing a 30 day suspended jail sentence, with an additional $250 dollar fine and court costs to boot. Allegedly haunted by the patients who died there, the location now serves as extra storage for the Lima-Allen County Landfill. There have been numerous accusations levelled by disgruntled ghost hunters at Ben Hefner, the owner of the building, arguing that he has cut a deal with the county to keep the money from fines rolling in. With no plans in place to develop the site in the foreseeable future it is likely that many more investigators will be drawn to the building and it’s grounds to face ambush by local deputies and a night in the cells.

Trespassing can be potentially deadly too. Rachel Barezinsky is one such legend tripper who nearly faced death when her friends decided to take a look around a creepy old house near their Ohio highschool in 2006. She was barely out of the car when the owner of the property, 40 year old Allen S. Davis, began firing on them from an upstairs window. In Davis’ own words “I didn’t know what their weaponry was, what their intentions were. In a situation like that, you assume the worst-case scenario if you’re going to protect your family from a possible home invasion and murder.”

One .22 calibre hollow point round hit Rachel in the head, fragmenting in the right parietal region of the brain, transversing the right temporal lobe and the rear of the right frontal lobe. It then crossed the midline, and finally embedded itself in her left frontal lobe. It remains there to this day. A second lodged itself in her right shoulder and has also proven impossible to remove. She has undergone many surgeries and had a couple of close calls, but is said to be well on the road to a ninety percent recovery. Rachel beat the odds, and her family knows it, believing it to be some form of religious miracle.

Davis had been the victim of numerous teenage pranks before the shooting and claimed that he had acted only to defend his property. He was so incensed by the charges brought against him that he was quoted from his cell by local journalists as stating that “It’s really something how home-owners defend themselves and the way the laws are written, we’re the ones brought up on charges while the perpetrators get little or nothing.” Unsurprisingly, Davis would later be sentenced to a sixteen year jail term for his crime.

The risks involved when not bothering to take notice of the second rule, locational awareness, can be illustrated by the following tale revolving around the tragic death of 29 year old Leah Kubik. The incident in question occurred at the 130 plus year old Connaught medical research building owned by the University of Toronto. First dates have a tendency to be messy affairs in general, but few result in a seven storey fall to the cold, hard pavement below. This one did, however, costing the life of a prominent and well loved Canadian computer hacker and leaving her family and friends wondering what really happened. Indeed, her mother hotly disputed the fact that Leah was even ghost hunting at all.

But the police at the time treated the whole situation as one sparked by a morbid curiosity for things unseen, placing the resulting accident firmly in ghost hunting territory by association. Kubik and her unnamed date broke into the ivy clad building through an open window in 2009 to have a look around the site of a previous murder. This earlier crime involved a professor at the university who was found stabbed back in January 2001. Climbing the stairs to the roof the couple began to cross it, but the wire that they were holding on to snapped and the rest, as they say, is local folklore in the making. She supposedly died in his arms, and it soon became yet another death by misadventure chalked up to chasing spooks by torch light.

Then there is the accident in the abandoned winery on Clovis Avenue, California, in late 2013 that saw one of a group of several self confessed ghost hunters travel thirty feet from a rickety old walkway to the ground floor the quickest way possible. Thankfully, while a short stay in hospital resulted from the accident, the unnamed woman was not seriously hurt. Officer Curt Fleming, who was called to the location of the accident said the following when interviewed by local press: “It’s a spooky old building but I’m not sure what they were doing. Up to no good, goofing around that’s for sure.”

No further information on the case is available, so its safe to assume that the group were not charged with trespassing on private property, though the idea was certainly raised by police at the time. Based purely upon the above examples you would think that exploring outside would safer. No need to worry about crumbling walkways or long drops off of short buildings, and no lawsuits for being there after hours either. Unfortunately bad planning can cause even open air investigations to end in tragedy.

Such was the case with amateur ghost hunter Christopher Kaiser back in 2010. Kaiser and a dozen or so companions were waiting for the apparition of the Fast Mail, a train involved in one of the USA’s earliest rail disasters. Mounting the bridge near Buffalo Shoals Road in North Carolina back in 1881 the Fast Mail slipped from the tracks into the creek below, killing twenty people and injuring many more. As if to echo this previous tragedy, the small group of thrill seekers would face a similar fate when a very real train came to meet them in the small hours of the night.

This modern locomotive rounded the bend without sounding its horn. Many of them had moved on to the trestle itself by this point, and were taken completely by surprise without anywhere to go. By some miracle all but Kaiser made it off the bridge alive, most sporting minor injuries from their hurried escape along 150 foot of track. Sadly, it later came to light that he had only been struck by the train because he had slowed down to push his girlfriend to safety. Kaiser had realised that she was falling behind the rest of the startled ghost hunters and made a snap decision to put her safety above his own.

Of course, professional debunkers had a field day with this one, and as such it was featured in Skeptical Enquirer magazine and a slew of mainstream newspapers around the world. The story soon passed beyond simple journalism to become a short lived rallying cry for those who saw ghost hunting as something akin in danger level to wrestling a full grown Bengal tiger while wearing a bodysuit made of sirloin steak. Oddly, a second paranormal researcher would be killed by a train in early 2016 whilst looking for a legendary Kentucky Goatman on the Pope Lick Trestle, so it is obvious that the media campaign had little effect.

Ghost hunters have also been known to find dead bodies. Such was the case for the small group illegally exploring the abandoned Kuhn hospital in Vicksburg Mississippi. Following a trail of blood from inside the building they soon stumbled upon the corpse of sixty-nine year old homicide victim Sharon Wilson, who had been reported missing earlier that day. One suspect would later be charged for the crime and, in a bizarre twist, would be shot dead by his own hostages after escaping from prison. While such events are thankfully rare they do indeed happen, and it is safe to assume that this was not the sort of interaction with the dead that the group originally had in mind.

Worse, at least one woman was sexually assaulted during 2015 in the UK while following up a lead on her own in a supposedly haunted location. Her attacker, Desire Nahimana, was working at the Guildhall in Birmingham city centre as a security guard when he enticed the young woman up to the empty forth floor with stories of a suspected poltergeist. Once they were alone, he attempted to force himself upon her. Desire was jailed for six months, and the victim has since been unable to return to work due to the trauma caused by the whole sorry mess.

That last case neatly bridges the gap between the second rule and the third. This, as previously mentioned, revolves around knowing your companions, and being able to trust them in an otherwise extraordinary situation. Ghost hunters do snap, be it due to underlying mental instability or a growing unease as their lives become increasingly filled with the politics of the weird. In that they are no different to the participants in any other mentally taxing hobby, though there are usually many more people waiting to point their fingers and shake their heads when the ectoplasm hits the fan.

Take, for example, the strange tale of Steven Laursen Junior of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. A self inflicted stab wound would go on to ruin the investigation that he was taking part in at the Villisca Axe Murder House, Iowa, back in late 2014. Details of the events still remain sketchy at best, especially as he has refused to comment further since his recovery. What we do know, however, is that Laursen took up a solitary vigil within the Northwest bedroom of the property before thrusting a knife into his own chest in a manner that has left the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department baffled.

A frantic yell for help brought his companions, some of whom had paid anything up to $428 for the privilege of spending the night inside what is generally considered to be one of the most paranormally active locations in the USA, to his aid. None of those subsequently questioned know why he did it, though some speculated spectral foul play of course.

The timing of this bizarre self mutilation coincided perfectly with that of the original murders in the house, a vicious crime from way back in 1912 that was never solved. Mental instability can not be ruled out, however. Nor can the power of being caught up in the moment and egged on by the tales tied to a particular location. This is especially true of one as notorious as the Axe Murder House has recently become through the power of television spook shows and YouTube videos of varying historical accuracy.

Or the case of the seven men who faced lengthy jail terms for arson of the Historic LeBeau Mansion near New Orleans in 2013. Drunk, high and with their efforts to summon the shades of whatever was supposed to haunt the sadly derelict pre-Civil War edifice failing miserably, the mood of the group turned toxic. It was then that their ringleader, Dusten Davenport, turned their attention to burning the building to the ground wholesale. Sadly, in this they succeeded. No one was hurt in the ensuing blaze that could be seen for miles around and had little chance of being brought under control by local emergency services.

This was a miracle in itself as the LeBeau had long been a regular hang out for troubled teens and the local homeless community, any one of which could have been hiding inside as the flames took hold. And these were not stupid kids either. Those involved in the arson ranged in age from seventeen year old Jerry Hamblen, to the aforementioned Dusten who was thirty-one at the time of arrest, and as such should have known better. Just how involved the other six people were in the events at the LeBeau is debatable, but they have all paid the price for the near $50,000 worth of damage done that night.

While Dusten and his circle of friends may not have been what we would consider an organised paranormal investigation group, they perhaps better represent the real grass roots of ghost hunting than shows like Ghost Adventures will ever do. Most of us started as bored teenagers looking for a thrill after sunset. While we would never burn a building to the ground due to lack of results, many of us are guilty of trespassing, hunting alone and not doing a daylight walk around of the location before diving right in.

Who knows just how many of our fellow ghost hunters have been added to the missing persons list of their local town or city because they ventured out at night, all alone and ill prepared to trespass within the very grounds of the building that now houses their still undiscovered body? Even if they are found, the exact details of the freak accident or foul play that befell them will likely never be known to the public, their friends or family, or even the wider paranormal community. Closure will not be forthcoming, and those they leave behind will question just what possessed them to do such a stupid thing in the first place.

Yes, paranormal investigation can indeed be a dangerous hobby, but one that is made all the safer by the application of some basic common sense. Unfortunately, if the numerous news reports mentioned within this article are anything to go by, common sense is harder to find than a free floating full torso vaporous apparition at the New York public library.

Rebellious Kisses

The following article was first published in the winter 2016 edition of Pagan Dawn magazine, and is designed to be a short evaluation of the importance of the godform Lilith to the human psyche. It highlights the various social accretions that she has acquired over the last few thousand years, everything from feminist icon to transgender crusader, as well as much more besides. It boasts a much tighter focus and cleaner prose than my previous work, and will hopefully reflect the high esteem that I hold her in as an entity whilst also approaching something akin to true journalism.


Rebellious Kisses
Lilith and Modern Neo-Paganism
By Gavin Fox

As a male neo-pagan with a deep seated love for the darker side of what we do, I made it a personal goal as I developed my own magickal identity to approach the supposed mother of the incubi and succubi for her wisdom. Little did I expect the androgynous, rebellious exile that I would find, nor did I realise just how quickly she would become a cornerstone of my magickal practice. Lilith’s is a long and twisting tale, with as many outcomes as the number of groups who identify with her in some way.

Few goddesses divide opinion like the Mesopotamian spirit who would later be re-purposed as the first wife of the Biblical Adam by Jewish Mystics in the Middle Ages. Tentatively tied to the Screech Owl of the Book of Isaiah, the Ki-sikil-lil-la-ke of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the succubus of medieval Catholicism, she may have been all of these or none. Certainly, modern scholarship has sought to dismiss any connection between the Burney relief held at the British Museum and Lilith, implying that she was not important enough to warrant such overt veneration.

The most widely accepted version of her origin lies within the pages of the Alphabet of Ben Sira. This satirical Jewish text is responsible both for bringing the once forgotten Lilith forward in to the modern era and also tentatively within the bounds of religious orthodoxy, albeit in a starkly adversarial context. Created from the same dirt as Adam, and rightly considering herself as his equal in every way by virtue of this, she abandoned her domineering husband when he attempted to force himself upon her. Refusing to lie beneath him she instead uttered the ineffable name of the Abrahamic god, an action as taboo as it was liberating, and escaped from the Garden of Eden into the wider world.

Alone but unbowed, she soon sought solace in the arms of Samael, the Talmudic angel of death. Thousands of children would be born from their otherworldly union in the caves along the banks of the Red Sea, as well as further copulations with Adam achieved through her mastery of the magickal arts. In time, her offspring would become the very incubi and succubi which plagued the followers of the mainstream Abrahamic religions well into the age of enlightenment. These spirits supposedly stole semen from unsuspecting males and used it to impregnate women, cementing their role in popular culture as shape shifting night terrors and the cause of nocturnal emissions in otherwise devout communities.

While the historical Lilith is most readily identified with sexual excess and the quest for personal pleasure at the cost of normal marital relations, it is intriguing to note that a more multifaceted interpretation of her role in human spirituality is slowly emerging. True, some modern magickians are content to simply scratch the surface, seeing her as nothing more complex than a godform to invoke when seeking to harness supernatural energies for dominance over the same or opposite sex. The proliferation of articles on the internet claiming to allow for the foolproof summoning of her children as little more than glorified sex toys also add weight to this crass misinterpretation of her essence, even if few bother to mention Lilith by name.

Considering her desire for autonomy, as well as her role as the dominant sexual partner during intercourse, some female witches accept her as a darker facet of the divine feminine. In this aspect she is venerated as a metaphor for the fiery passions that bubble beneath the surface of the god and goddess duality.

She is also occasionally identified with the crone aspect of the triple goddess, the wise and experienced matriarch who brings an understanding of death and inevitable decay to the life cycle of the modern pagan. Here too we see ties to both Kali and Hecate, themselves keys to the underworld for those willing to undergo such a turbulent initiation.

To Feminists she is an icon of rebellion against a male dominated society that still views women as second class citizens as a result of Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. In this respect Lilith’s male authored origin story can be seen as a double edged sword. While it is a powerful metaphor for feminine autonomy, it was initially created by the exclusively male priesthood to present a patriarchal view of the right for man to rule over woman. It also highlights the consequences of allowing female sexual desires to burn out of control.

It is also interesting to note that a long running Jewish feminist magazine has chosen her name as its title, expressly to embrace that desire for equality despite the obvious difficulties in reconciling Lilith’s passionately outspoken nature with the tenets of orthodox Judaism.

With a little historical detective work it is not difficult to look beyond Lilith’s assumed femininity to a time before her resurgence within the Abrahamic religious texts. Here she is numbered among the Lilitu, a minor class of unclean spirit that dwelt in the deserts and sought to lead travellers astray. In these older representations she is viewed as gender neutral or even androgynous, an undefined, winged, clawed and hairy entity that assumed whichever form was relevant to her desires at the time.

Because of this many transgender members of the modern neo-pagan community view Lilith as a patron of sorts. In this aspect she represents freedom of expression at any cost, authenticity in the face of ridicule and the decision to choose exile over unjust societal pressures. She also embodies a more up to date and liquid view of personal sexuality, and the removal of birth defined biological gender as a prerequisite for socially acceptable relationships.

As has been shown, there are as many interpretations as disputes with regards to her pedigree as a single historical entity, but in a universe steeped in archetypes and memetics that matters little. Truly, if she had not existed before the twentieth century we would have needed to create her anyway, so vital to the current human situation is the vein of anarchic self empowerment that she represents. Lilith is a patron of the outcast, a rallying point for the abused and a voice for the ignored. She is every inch the original rebel, and it was that aspect that brought us together.

Being called by Lilith is an intriguing experience. At first she may seem to be a weird choice of patron for a male neo-pagan who spends most of his time working with the known and unknown dead. But as a representation of non reproductive lust and thief of semen it could be argued that Lilith is the ultimate icon of unlife, removing many a potential mortal from the world before they even draw their first breath. Bridging the gap between pleasure and oblivion, she is in some ways the perfect godform to encapsulate the mindset of the modern necromantic movement, as well as the neo-pagan desire for social equality.

Many of the magickal texts outlining the methods required to approach Lilith are firmly rooted in the left hand path, but adherence to such a belief system is not required for a successful conjuration. While she has been adopted by these practitioners, as well as a notable section of the modern vampire community, it is worth recognising that she pre-dates such concepts entirely.

But Lilith is an extremely primal and unruly energy to allow into your life, a harsh and unforgiving mistress who cares little for the consequences of how she delivers on her promises. As mentioned earlier, it is here that she shares much with the crone of modern witchcraft, a wise yet barren matriarch who knows through bitter experience that the most rewarding outcomes sometimes require a painful journey to achieve. Mysterious accidents, illnesses without definite causes, even floods and property damage are all seen by her as viable ways to either give you what you seek, or what you truly need.

She works best as a mercenary of sorts, an entity to approach only when a well defined need presents itself, and to be discarded once the request has been made much like the spirits of the Ars Goetia, who may in fact be her offspring. Eschewing long term devotion, Lilith instead craves short bursts of focussed attention as payment, especially both male and female sexual energies. She seems to be especially drawn to writers and artists who can generate it for her, adding an undefinable undercurrent to their work.

Evidence of a less sexualised communication between Lilith and the modern entertainment industry can be easily found works of supernatural fiction which feature her as either antagonist, saviour or both. Indeed, one of Lilith’s main strengths in this regard is her ability to represent so many core aspects of the human condition which remain hidden from society, allowing her to continue to be relevant even in an age of information overload and eight second attention spans.

My time working with Lilith was brief, numbering but five years, yet this still around half the total period that I have considered myself both a neo-pagan and a practising magickian. She was never my goddess, as I prefer to work alone for the most part, but we both derived mutual benefit from our occasional interactions. While I call on her less and less now, moving as I am beyond the point where I actually require outside help to attain my desires, I have fond memories of the projects that we worked on together and the scars to prove it too.

Lilith is so many things to so many people, but I have been lucky enough to see a side of her that so many will never understand. She is the original feminine rebel, as well as the first human to say no to a higher power. For that reason and many more besides, she will always be an important archetype for man and woman alike.

 

Cities Of Life And Death

The following article was originally published back in 2013, in issue two, volume one of the excellent Conjure Codex series from Hadean Press. While my writing had previously appeared on a number of smaller websites, it was the first work of mine to be printed in an actual physical anthology. I am still rather fond of it, even though the prose is a little verbose in light of my current writing style. As an essay it neatly offers an insight into my magickal path, and an alternative viewpoint for urban pagans to experiment with too.


Cities of Life and Death
The Nature Current as an Agent of Urban Decay
By Gavin Fox

City as Dominion
In a world that is increasingly losing it’s physical aspect in favour of something digital, something unreal and encoded, it is easy to overlook the very real forces of nature. Many who either work or dwell within the sterile marble and plate glass effigies to monetary gain and intellectual apartheid that pass brashly as the height of civilisation never notice how easily the wild and untamed slide stealthily back under their radar, or how even the most modern of urban sprawls soon becomes home to the very flora and fauna once thought to have been cleared in its construction. How soon the average citizen forgets that this entire world was once the sole domain of the Nature Current and for all of their protestations otherwise, their concrete and brick, their atomic fusion and God Particles, one day it will be again. It is this conflict that the Urban Magickian straddles, making the best of the modern while recognising the ancient, and if all goes to plan stopping every so often to learn a trick or two from both factions along the way.

Road as River
In looking to harness both the Magickal and mundane opportunities presented by a given concept, it is first necessary to understand the context in which it exists. Perhaps then it is to the Psychogeographers that we should initially turn, to explore ideas of the reciprocal relationship between man and his built environment, the living flesh of the city and the effect that its form and function have on the human mind. Through their efforts to walk within the urban landscape while concentrating upon the journey and not the destination, weaving a unique narrative as they go, such people share a common bond with the modern Magickian, a willingness to look beyond the mundane and to notice the intriguing where others might instead pass on by. Both feel the draw of the heartbeat of the city, finding themselves caught in its eddies and currents, tides and whirlpools, and in the case of those seeking to observe nature’s ongoing quest to reassert itself as mistress over the modern world all that is required is a willingness to look at the built environment with fresh, questioning eyes.

Thus the bruised and battered trees by the roadside become surrogate lungs of the city, and the cracks in the pavement its skin; rough, calloused and trod raw by the feet of those who never stop to give it a second thought, or notice the moss clinging defiantly to the gutters and drains around them. The seasonal rhythm of seeding and harvest in the rural landscape is replaced by autumnal falls of Horse-chestnuts and Acorns scattered frivolously over flagstones and muddy banks, each a small crystallised sliver of the Nature Current awaiting the knowing hand of the urban Mage who utilises them as ammunition in their Magickal arsenal as soon as they become available. And it is within the oldest areas of the most ancient of cities that the Nature Current waxes brightest, for it is here that the slow march of root and water has had time to make its decaying mark with an almost artistic zeal, forever scarring and altering buildings originally constructed to stand forever by people who understood the natural world well enough to seek safety from its darker edge.

Nature as Destroyer
Since the earliest ages man has huddled behind strong, sheltering walls and looked out mistrustfully upon the encroaching darkness that extends in all directions around his self appointed island of sanctuary. Protected from rival tribes and hungry predators, mankind’s innate desire to personify that which he feared soon extended to encompass the very processes of nature itself, and as such Gods and Demons of plague and flood, drought and tempest were born, given form and function by those lucky enough to live through the traumatic events associated with their conception. Thus insidious Pazuzu brought swarms of crop-eating locusts to the Babylonians, mighty Typhon hammered the world of the Ancient Greeks with storm-strength winds and stolen lightning, and dreaming Rūaumoko caused the seasonal earthquakes that greatly influenced Māori mythology and culture from within his mother’s womb deep beneath the earth.

It could be argued that the need for such personification points categorically to an innate understanding in earlier ages of the entropic and destructive underbelly of the Nature Current, one seemingly forgotten by modern civilisation now that the city boundaries stand not in stone but on paper, and our horizons have become vastly expanded by satellite mapping and GPS led exploration. Yet still, despite the godlike claims of science and society, nature endures, pushing its roots beneath pavements and buildings until it has the power to bring them down. Indeed, the skilled urban Magickian can actively seek out these places where the Nature Current becomes almost militant, locked in perpetual combat as it is with man’s obsessive compulsive need for abstract progress, and treat them as powerful Nodes or Wellsprings to empower his Works. Even in the most sterile of environments it is worth remembering that just as man is fleeting, so are his creations, while nature boasts an innate longevity that we can only ever dream of. As the flea-borne and rat-carried Great Plague of 1664 to 1666 amply shows, nature will always find a way to act upon its agenda.

Vermin as Totem
As with any place of large-scale congregation, the modern urban environment is in many ways defined by the mountains of waste that it heaps like necrotic offerings under smog-choked skies. We do not hunt our food, but purchase it pre-packaged in gaudily printed and barely biodegradable containers. Where once half-devoured carcasses returned their remaining nutrients to the earth, now we see only landfill; miles deep, miles wide and ready to pop like an over-ripe plague bubo should society refuse to see the error of its ways. Yet even here, in the shadow of our self-inflicted Hell, we find the Nature Current adapting to our cruel attentions and both plants and animals not only surviving but in most cases actively thriving upon the very things that we discard. Vermin, they are called. The unclean and shunned, the mice, rats and foxes, pigeons and crows, animals forever changed by their symbiosis with mankind. A fitting Totem for the outsider, the stray, taken by those who wait in the darkness between the street lights for the opportunity to strike.

Such Totemic associations, while perhaps considered by many to represent little more interesting than a modern re-imagining of ancient self-help techniques, can in fact offer much to the modern Magickian. There is strength to be gained on a purely psychological level from personifying your thoughts and deeds, actions and motivations, even those that are generally perceived to be negative by the wider community. Thus the fox becomes the Totem of the wily urban scavenger, the quiet survivor content to wait for his day to come while living well in the shadow of the ivory towers erected by his enemies. Even rats and mice, while initially unattractive, amply suit those with an interest in Cybermagick, personifying the hacker’s perennial preoccupation with finding ingenious ways into places thought impregnable. As these examples show, there is a vast difference between the urban and rural interpretation of Animal Totems, and said pragmatic shift in the fabric of the Nature Current is felt not only within the material world but also the spiritual, especially in places where the natural world is allowed to exert its influence with little or no interference by mankind.

Graveyard as Wellspring
While it may come as no real surprise to see many a Necromancer drawn moth-like to their local graveyard to commune with the dead for fun and profit, when it comes to others who adhere to more mainstream schools of Magick, including those that glibly claim the energies of nature as their personal sphere of influence, we find such places usually overlooked or worse, shunned as somehow unclean. Perhaps because of its association with those who have passed beyond the Veil, we see the graveyard ostracised and ignored, denied its rightful place in the universal pattern of worldwide Magickal practice. No Druid collects holly from within its broken stone walls, no Wiccan dare pluck wild flowers from within its cold, unbeating heart. Only the lonely Necromancer dare see the place for what it truly is, and dance in the energies released like a metaphysical updraft from every leaf, every open tomb, every twig and stone.

That the graveyard is not more widely recognised for its gifts is a crime of the basest ignorance, as not only do they number among the more wild and truly natural places within our oh so modern urban sprawl, but also boast a starkly unique energetic resonance all of their own. Such resonances are all-important to those amongst the modern Occult Community that can claim to have mastered the most basic of Magickal techniques: the absorption and projection of different forms of energy. Avoided by the mainstream or not, the fact remains that much can be gained from visiting your local burial place, especially if it is overgrown and desolate in aspect, as here you will find both the Death and Nature Currents flowing freely, and if you are lucky, something far more intriguing resonating in the space between the two.

Entropy as Magick
The enlightened among you who have already been drawn to your local graveyard to sit beneath gnarled, fungi-infested Oak trees or drift listlessly between ivy-choked and long forgotten burial plots know the pull of this ‘other’ energy all too well, and those who work with the Death Current, that most elusive and entropic of resonances, on a regular basis instantly notice the difference in taste with a dry smile and a grateful snarl. For it is here, where the evergreen and sombrely pleasant living world is actively encouraged to feast upon the decaying biological matter of the dead, that a unique Magickal process occurs: a mixing of the Nature and Death Currents intimate in its beauty. In the shadow of the brooding, acid rain-burned angels that tower forlornly over the graves of long-forgotten souls, opposites thought to be incompatible blend sweetly together and extend their bastard offspring to those with the Will to take it from them.

Any Magickian adept enough to harness this enhanced Nature and Death Current hybrid shall find such energy to be the true embodiment of the concept initially outlined in this essay, of the often denied entropic aspect of the green world. Encoded as it is with both the enlivening and vital essence of nature and the coldly consuming emptiness of death, the resulting cool Promethean fire can be utilised to eat away at the boundaries between the spiritual and the physical, with places that are particularly strong in this decaying warmth lending themselves admirably to psychic journeying and speedy access to the Otherworld. In this regard, the more overgrown and derelict the location the better, as such energetic gateways rarely resonate well within expertly manicured and landscaped gardens of human design, not even those overtly dedicated to the dead.

City as Muse
For those that prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, or who find such talk of encoded energy to be too fanciful to include within the main body of their Magickal practice, just walking through the average urban environment offers much for the practitioner of natural Magick to think about. How did mankind become so separated from the natural world? When did the desire to safely hide behind walls of stone and shelter under roofs of shale give way to an illusion of control over the very elemental energies that once governed our lives in simpler, if admittedly harsher, times? And what traces of our once proud monoliths to progress and assumed enlightenment will remain once we are gone and the natural world has once again scabbed over the bared bones of our concrete and plexiglass legacy? Only time will tell. What can be stated with some degree of certainty, however, is that nature is slowly working its way under the very flesh of our civilised world, much like the rivers we drive underground to become our sewers, and just like those silently flowing epitaphs to simpler times it cannot be stopped, only redirected and contained, as it eats our cities away from within.