Supping At The Angel & Feathers by Michael Staley – Part 1

Featured here with kind permission.


This article explores the link between three elements of magick – the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, extraterrestrialism, and the Aeon of Maat. The link is intimate – stripped of jargon, they are different facets of an identical experience. The experience is that of trafficking with wider and deeper ranges of consciousness – often referred to as ‘Outside’ or ‘Beyond’. Dissolving the veils of jargon, we find a beautiful simplicity at the core.

‘The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel’ is an extremely glamorous concept in the Western Magical Tradition. It remains nothing more than a concept until it has been experienced; and, once it has been experienced, the concept bears no relation whatever to the reality. This reality is an unshakeable insight into the substratum, the fountain of living waters which underlies and infuses the play of manifestation. Communion with the Angel may be realised by a formal Working such the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, or Crowley’s Liber Samekh; or it may arise with apparent spontaneity, an accumulation of experience which reaches ‘critical mass’.

Holy Guardian Angel

Contact is not, though, at the behest of the magician; it is the Angel which opens the Operation. This is because the magician is a facet of the Angel, not – as he or she might like to think – an autonomous being. The human is a terrestrial expression of the Angel, nothing more. ‘Extra-terrestrial’, therefore, refers to vast reaches of awareness that stretch beyond the terrestrial, and of which the terrestrial is a limited expression.

This extra-terrestrial reality is often referred to as the Aeon of Maat, the Matrix or Womb from which manifestation arises. The Aeons have been interpreted as periods of time which are bounded by the Precession of the Equinoxes, but this superficial interpretation veils the reality to which the term points. As in the Angel and extra-terrestrialism, we must look beyond the concept.

Some readers may be wondering about the basis for the above remarks. A number of years ago I received an unmistakeable call to undertake the Knowledge and Conversation, and it seemed clear to me that Liber Samekh was to be my chosen instrument. This was in spite of the fact that I did not consider myself to be competent in some of the magical techniques of Samekh; however, since the time had clearly arrived, I had to do my best with the skills available. I stuck closely to the format of Samekh in terms of frequency of ritual, order of stages, etc. Liber Samekh is a very intensive Operation, an accelerating intensity and frequency of working that has to be kept to. This intensity gives rise to a powerful momentum, the nature and intensity of which can be appreciated only by someone who has undertaken something similar.

The accelerating dynamism of the initial ten moons of Samekh is a preparation for the eleventh, culminating moon. The expectation is that the dynamism generated will hurl the aspirant into rapturous, orgasmic communion with the Angel. It doesn’t; the essence of this final moon is one of waiting for the approach of the Angel, who has indeed been the instigator of the Working. This is an extremely hard lesson; undoubtedly, it has to be learnt afresh at first hand by the aspirant.

There is a passage of Liber LXV, The Book of the Heart Girt with the Serpent which captures this point beautifully:

The prophet cried against the mountain; come thou hither, that I may speak with thee! The mountain stirred not. Therefore went the prophet unto the mountain, and spake unto it. But the feet of the prophet were weary, and the mountain heard not his voice. But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning. This now I know, O my beloved, and we are stretched at our ease among the vines. But these, thy prophets; they must cry aloud and scourge themselves; they must cross trackless wastes and unfathomed oceans; to await Thee is the end, not the beginning.

The nature of the Angel is at once both simple and profound. It is the Gateway to the continuum of consciousness which lurks behind the mask of multiplicity, and which is extra-terrestrial; this continuum is also masked as the Aeon of Maat, which is not a sequence of time but insight into Reality. This Reality is ever-present, veiled by terrestrial identity; we have only to cease to be hypnotised by our self-imposed limitations, for it to become apparent that we are that Reality, always have been, and always will be. Hence the above line ‘I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning’; it really is that simple. The notion of the jivanmukta, he who is liberated whilst still living, is a glorious one; on the other hand, the only thing keeping us from this liberation is the illusion that we are not free.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Your Angel knows of that gorgeous little tavern ‘The Angel & Feathers’ which is always just around every corner…

Supping At The Angel & Feathers

Supping At The Angel & Feathers:

It is as well at the outset to clarify the use of the term ‘terrestrial’. It denotes simply that which is earth-bound, or human. The terrestrial vehicle is a mask, an incarnation of a consciousness, the veils of which dissolve in the course of initiation. ‘Extra-terrestrial’, therefore, indicates that which is out with or beyond the comparatively narrow range of human, earth-bound, terrestrial consciousness. ‘Beyond’ or ‘Outside’ is often used in a similar fashion – that which lies beyond the confines of the terrestrial vehicle. A fine example of the use of the term ‘terrestrial’ in this context occurs in the first paragraph of Lovecraft’s story Beyond the Wall of Sleep:

…From my experience, I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories exist after waking…

We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on this terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon. Magick has a mystical core – the realisation of sunyavada, the emptiness at the heart of matter. This emptiness is simultaneously a plenitude, nourishing in its depths the seed of manifestation which flowers in its perfection and then fades. The rhythm of the universe is maintained in a perpetual expansion and contraction, becoming and absorption. Initiation is the unveiling of consciousness; whether this is viewed as an internal or an external journey makes little odds, since both amount to the same thing. It is the assimilation of magical and mystical experience – a process of understanding, of insight. The nature of this insight is an awareness that consciousness does not rest with the individual, but is universal or cosmic; there is a continuum, not a multiplicity of isolated units.

Whatever the nature of the magical or mystical practices pursued, the real change is at the level of Jnana – intuitive knowledge. What changes is not consciousness, but that which we have previously thought of as ourselves in relation to it. Awareness is no longer restricted to the terrestrial vehicle; the focus shifts, attuning to wider and deeper ranges of consciousness beyond what was formerly considered to be the self.

Evoking the Interterrestrial

The sense of individuality is only a restriction or dungeon so long as we incarcerate ourselves therein, a bondage forged by our own preconceptions. We are all facets of the universe. There is no individual self which endures, but the flux and flow of perception, like wave after wave surging forth. The wave is a transient form of the water, giving way to another wave. Consciousness roils, throwing forth shadows from its depths; these shadows are the glamours of manifestation, a perpetual play which flows and shimmers, urgent and alive, sweeping this way and that. We are drawn from these shadows: not as monads, self-existent and eternally enduring; but as transient ripples of consciousness which flow outwards, melding and coalescing with other ripples. In this incessant weaving amidst the continuum of consciousness, self and not-self mingle and fuse, slipping back and forth, trespassing wantonly across apparent boundaries which have always been fluid.

To become alive to this transience seems an extraordinary thing; yet it is the most natural state in the world. It is a measure of how we have cut ourselves off from reality – drawn the covers over our heads and huddled in our ghettos. Initiation is a vitriol, dissolving the illusion of separateness. Only in recognising individuality as illusion, and ceasing to cling to it, can we see past what we are not, to the fecund infinity of that which we really are. This relinquishment is the pressing of the blood into the Cup of Babalon. It is a work of reconciliation: not of the melding of self and other, the microcosm and the macrocosm, the apparent individual and the rest of the universe, which have never been apart anyway; but of our awareness of that identity.

This reintegration is a path not of renunciation, but of fulfilment – of awakening to a wider, richer, deeper identity. It lies at the heart of magick, and is the Great Work.

Without such a vision, there is only results magic, which accentuates the sense of separation from the rest of the universe. This is the path of compulsive individuality, the attempt to seal up the blood in the body, to cling to the sense of separation, inured to the flux and flow of the universe – a tide which inevitably claims all transient shadows for the melting pot. This melting pot is the Cup of Babalon, from whence springs the gamut of existence, and to where it returns.  Initiation is thus not something which occurs to an individual. The terrestrial vehicle is a refraction of a much vaster field of awareness.

As initiation runs its course, awareness becomes wider and deeper, less bound up with the terrestrial vehicle, and increasingly alive to reaches which lie beyond. This is not a steady process, but unfolds by leaps of intuitive insight. Its course is sometimes expressed as a move from the self towards the Self – the totality, the cosmic consciousness, of which the self is a refraction. All knowledge is Self-knowledge, and initiation is a process of re-membering, or reintegration. All apparent entities are ranges of consciousness, equally vehicles of the Self. There is a sea of sentience; we traffic with wider and deeper ranges, and there is assimilation: “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union”.

Entities such as Lam and Aiwass are no more entities in their own right than are human beings: not remote, august beings, but equally shadows in the sweep of sentience. The sentiments of Lovecraft in the passage already quoted are not so far from those of Crowley, when he wrote: My observation of the Universe convinces me that there are beings of intelligence and power of a far higher quality than anything we can conceive of as human; that they are not necessarily based on the cerebral and nervous structures that we know, and that the one and only chance for mankind to advance as a whole is for individuals to make contact with such Beings. Crowley’s traffickings with Aiwass and Amalantrah are examples of such contact. Crowley usually needed a medium to facilitate such communication, although there were occasions when mediumship did operate fitfully for him: the glimpses of Aiwass during the earthing of Liber AL, for instance. In the case of the Amalantrah Working, this mediumship was provided by several Scarlet Women, who were sensitised by sex, drugs, and alcohol in various combinations, and became oracular.


Their visions were often located at an astral Temple, peopled by doubles of those taking part in the physical sessions, as well as the forms of colleagues who were at a distance. Frequently what the medium was seeing and hearing was meaningless to her, but oracular and intended for the comprehension of Crowley. Communication was sometimes explicit; more often it was subtler, the essence being conveyed by means of numbers, symbols, I Ching hexagrams, Tarot cards, and the like. Communication in this fashion may seem at first sight perverse, and wilfully obscure.

However, the use of gematria and symbols can spark intuitive leaps, flashes of insight that are simply not amenable to expression in words. It is not unlike the mathematician’s approach to communication in terms of pure number, as being more precise than language in its apprehension. Thus, Workings such as that with Amalantrah, or those in the Algerian desert in 1909, go beyond the subjective – although there is bound to be some such tincture, like light shining through coloured glass. These are records of traffic with extra-terrestrial forces, and their worth is substantiated by the fact that, years later, other occultists are able to study these records and make creative use of them, with a view to picking up some of the multitude of threads and continuing with them.

To Be Continued…

Text: Michael Staley (with kind permission) – Starfire Publishing


“Holy Guardian Angel”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
“Supping At The Angel & Feathers”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Evoking the Interterrestrial”: Matt Baldwin-Ives
“Amalantrah”: Matt Baldwin-Ives

The Kisses that Foam and Bleed

The Kisses That Foam And Bleed

I bring ye wine from above,
From the vats of the storied sun;
For every one of ye love,
And life for every one.
Ye shall dance on hill and level;
Ye shall sing in hollow and height
In the festal mystical revel,
The rapturous Bacchanal rite!
The rocks and trees are yours,
And the waters under the hill,
By the might of that which endures,
The holy heaven of will!
I kindle a flame like a torrent
To rush from star to star;
Your hair as a comet’s horrent,
Ye shall see things as they are!
I lift the mask of matter;
I open the heart of man;
For I am of force to shatter
The cast that hideth -Pan!
Your loves shall lap up slaughter,
And dabbled with roses of blood
Each desperate darling daughter
Shall swim in the fervid flood.
I bring ye laughter and tears,
The kisses that foam and bleed,
The joys of a million years,
The flowers that bear no seed.
My life is bitter and sterile,
Its flame is a wandering star.
Ye shall pass in pleasure and peril
Across the mystic bar
That is set for wrath and weeping
Against the children of earth;
But ye in singing and sleeping
Shall pass in measure and mirth!
I lift my wand and wave you
Through hill to hill of delight :
My rosy rivers lave you
In innermost lustral light..
I lead you, lord of the maze,
In the darkness free of the sun;
In spite of the spite that is day’s
We are wed, we are wild, we are one.

Words “Dionysus”: Aleister Crowley
Image “The Kisses that Foam and Bleed”: Sarah-Jayne Farrer & Matt Baldwin-Ives

The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara

The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara

Bound to ever decaying orbits of infernal peacock-plumed coils, cascading, they suck upon forgotten fume and forbidden elixir; long-lost in the billowing mists of time and obscurity. From within, the erosion begins, as the soul condenses. Bereft of change the ‘Self’ slumbers deep, seldom waking.

Dream enmeshed, vivid vision-tranced, lashed by judder – ecstatic light glimmers in her ebon eyes; unsettling him to fears of her feral divinity, spawned of ferocious radiance.

Deep sighs from pouting lips escape. Tightly grasped, he becomes the anchor for her storm rocked vessel. Soul, mind, body – their whole world in fact – ablaze in the trembling ocean. Spinal masts creak and bow as plasmic oceans heave and surge, suitably chemicalised. Energised.

A Mauve moon hangs ragged above the bleak horizon, silver has crossed palms. “Our blessings come to us by way of madness”, her whisperings fell deliciously upon his ear, again.

Passion. Ardour. Power. Amore.

Image: “The Divine Inebriation of Lady Sa-hasrara” by Matt Baldwin-Ives and Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Model: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Text: “The Witch of Melek Taus” by Sarah-Jayne Farrer and Matt Baldwin-Ives

Going Spare with John Constable

“What if this play, cunningly disguised as a biographical drama, is, in fact, the vehicle for a practical demonstration of Chaos Magic? A play conceived as an Act of Magic, the invocation or evocation of beings as yet unknown to this world, yet I fear all too familiar to our Borough Magus. The play of Mr. Austin Osman Spare’s unconditioned mind, even now unfolding before our soon to be astonished eyes.”

-prologue to “SPARE” in which Constable, as the Actor, wonders aloud to the audience

Austin Osman Spare’s shadow stretches across a huge chunk of Southwark. His art and magic scattered out from his Council flat at 52 Beckett House in Tabard Street his top-floor studio of 56a Walworth Road and his temporary wartime stay hostel at 86 Walworth Road. You can almost imagine him walking through the roads and alleyways, drifting down to Bankside and Borough Market with its Dickensian wrought-iron roof, the spire of Southwark cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in London, castings its own shadow – to exhibit paintings in local pubs and stop by to mingle with the locals over a pint or two, and over to Soho and Fitzrovia where he rubbed shoulders at the Wheatsheaf (notorious hang out of Aleister Crowley). Spare decided “not only to turn his back on ‘Mayfair and its self-regarding art scene…’, but he chose to put himself in a community made up of working people”, and within this community, amongst the streets that Austin would have meandered, an interview with John Constable (aka John Crow) was to take place; within the locus, the Omphalos, the azygous centre of Austin Osman Spare’s stomping grounds, in a pretty garden square not far from Tabard Street and across the road from the Crossbones, where we stopped for John to tell me about the place and his work there, and about the inspiration behind the decorations upon the gates. The interview took on a life of its own and we ended up having a chat really about Spare’s influence on John’s one-man play “SPARE”, which I had the pleasure to attend at the end of June (new dates have been set and details can be found at the end of this article); sitting on the grass in the cool shade of the trees, I asked my first question…

Simply, or not so simply as the case may be… “Why Spare?”

John: “I have been doing the work at Cross Bones, as you know, for probably about 15 years and many people have come to support me and because of what Cross Bones is they’re not all people that, in a normal sense, can be considered ‘good’. I knew a guy, who died 3 years ago, Ion Alexis Will, a very interesting character and he’ll pop up in bits of occult lore. He was one of the guiding spirits in the early days of Fortean Times; Lyall Watson credited him as a source for some of the wonders reported in his book; a school friend of Ken Campbell. Ion attached himself, in a sense, to me at Cross Bones, he became a very good servant of The Goose though many people warned me to be wary of him. He had a terrible reputation! A bit like Crowley or somebody like that; very similar actually, there was that bestial side that horrified people, but he was actually a very good friend to me in that time, the 2 or 3 years I knew him before he died. He commissioned me in a sense, oh he didn’t give me any money for it, but he said in the George Inn one night, he was addressing me as John Crow at the time, “CROW! You are the man to write a play about Austin Osman Spare”. Now when he said that to me, because he had orders for me every week, used to write me huge letters, I used to resist everything he told me, including that! But roughly a year after he died, he was there with me one night, Ion, and I thought “Okay, I accept the commission.”

Sarah: What made you accept Ion’s commission to write a play about Austin Osman Spare so many years later?

John: “The simplest reason is I felt a kinship with Spare, which I say was emotional, intellectual and practical, as in the sense of practice. Many, many reasons really. In terms of Spares own approach I have never been that comfortable with full ceremonial magic, I’ve always been more interested in the intuitive, and that area where what we call magic blends into what we call art and creativity. There’s an area of magical practice that seamlessly shades into a lot of artistic practice and creativity, it’s about the idea of re-patterning the world, restructuring, and reinterpreting. That isn’t to deny manifestations and things like this, or even effecting actual physical changes in reality, I certainly believe that is possible to do, but I think it all comes from the shifting of our perception. Blake once said “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” – one feels that through the eyes of say Dawkins or somebody like that, the world is a material world, it has explanations, it is rational or reducible, it can be reduced to atoms. And so if that is your concept, in a sense that is the world that you live in, but equally if you know the world is peopled with spirits and helpers, allies and adversaries and all of that, then that is the world one experiences. That to me is very strong in the play “SPARE”, and I hope in all my work; the idea that we are the agents of transformation and that the world that we transform is then the world we live in. So certainly Spare’s practice appealed to me, but of course there’s the fact that he lived in this area, in a situation I can really relate to. He had some success, in fact some considerable success when he was young, then everything really went downhill from about the age of 17 and he chose to come here, not only to turn his back on Mayfair and its self-regarding art scene, but he had chosen to put himself in a community made up of working people; he was defining himself as a working man, a journey man, rather than a highfalutin artist, and all of that appealed to me”.

Sarah: What parallels have you drawn from Spare’s life to your own?

John: “As a playwright, like many others, I was briefly hailed as the next big thing. And it hasn’t fully delivered, or I haven’t fully delivered, but I found that around the mid-1990s I decided that not only was I probably never going to be part of the mainstream or established English theatre scene, but I no longer wanted to be and that was a great freedom really. I started writing solo shows, the first one I did was “I Was An Alien Sex God”, very deliberately and partly blowing a raspberry at the idea that I was a David Hare sort of playwright. It was introducing an element of play, and that followed through really in the work of The Southwark Mysteries; whereas on one hand that was a very serious work on one level, it’s got a great deal of humour in it too. And I think above all, it was the fact that he had moved here and I know of at least 3 or 4 places he’d lived. Obviously the studio at the Elephant & Castle, then he was at Becket House which is just over beyond that church in Tabard Square (John points up from our grassy spot to highlight which church). In a sense I’m living roughly in-between those two places, so I felt very connected geographically and just as with The Southwark Mysteries, which was conceived as an attempt at a magical or secret history of the last 2000 years, that geographical limit is what made it possible. I was writing about roughly a square mile around where I live, my own neighbourhood. With “SPARE” I felt it was very important not to try to encapsulate Spare or pin him down.’”

Sarah: To pin down someone that’s un-pindownable is always a bit of a challenge! What influence has Spare’s work, art or otherwise, had on you?

John: “It’s difficult for me actually to talk about Spare’s influence because I only found out about him quite late in my life, about 1998 or 9 when I was already full into The Southwark Mysteries a friend said to me one night “You know about Austin Osman Spare?” and I was like “Whoa, what a name!” And I really didn’t know about him, and then when I started looking into him I could see why my friend might have even assumed that I was a kind of disciple of Spare, because my approach to The Southwark Mysteries, which was very much a sense of ‘getting out the way’ and allowing unconscious processes to work. You know obviously Spare uses the concept of unconscious in a very different way from Freud or even Jung. It’s much more dynamic. It seems to refer to the unconscious mind in a more Hindu sense. When I looked into him I was very interested in seeing how, and I think that’s something I share with him, he had this kind of quite intuitive syncretic approach. I believe that elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, along with the Spiritualism of that time, were perhaps even more important influences on Spare than the more obvious Western Magical Tradition”

Sarah: So what was your trick to conjure Spare? To get you in that ‘Spare zone’?

John: “I had seen the exhibition at the Cuming Museum, and this was one of the real windows in. You know he first exhibited there of course, even before the Academy? So it had this fantastic sense of connection. You know I am a very visceral person, in the way I get my inspiration, you can tell with the gates (at the Cross Bones). So seeing these paintings and reminding myself that this was a man who turned his back on fame and fortune and came to live at the Elephant – those were my lead ins. To evoke him, the key was to look at a few incidents and to connect with his life here at the Elephant. That geographical discipline, or boundary, was very liberating for me in terms of not feeling I had to deal with everything that Spare might conjure up.”

Sarah: What research did you carry out for the writing of “SPARE”?

John: “I didn’t over research it, for example I didn’t read Phil Baker’s recent book. It came out when I was working on the play and I very deliberately didn’t read it. I had heard it was quite a radical reappraisal, and I thought the last thing I really want is to get caught up in someone else’s vision. I will read it though, once I’ve done this next run. I obviously read some of Spare’s own work, The Book of Pleasure… I have a couple of his other books… Borough Magus which I borrowed… That was very good! I went to the local studies library here, behind the John Harvard library and they have some great little newspaper pieces on Spare. And finally in terms of the research part, Caroline Wise and Michael Staley were very good, they have a small private collection of about 20 Spare paintings, and they invited me to come and talk to them. They knew Steffi Grant quite well, so they had a one degree of separation from Spare which was good, but it was even more delightful when I went to go and interview them, they were decorating their house and all their Spare’s were off the wall, stacked up. So I actually sat on a bit of sofa which had Spare paintings all around it, and when I explained to them about my love of visceral research, Caroline urged me to sniff and even let me touch, gently, the paintings.”

Sarah: How did you approach the writing of the play?

John: “To me there are many kinds of writers, and there are no right and wrong ways to write, perform or anything like that, so I don’t hold this as any kind of set in stone view. When I start I may have a very, very rough model of what I want to do in my mind, but for me the excitement are these areas of the unknown. I know lots of writers who start with a message, and then allow that to become clothed in flesh, but I tend to start with the flesh and try and work out the message, if there is one. You know which has its difficulties, and I think certainly a lot of the most commercially accepted writers do have a much clearer strategy, but to me this sense of what’s between the lines, of what is unspoken, what we intuit (which is why I write poetry as well) is important. I love not the concept that is pinned down but the intuition that sort of floats between the words, and that I suppose is another area I feel an kinship and an influence of Spare. When I started writing “SPARE”, I wrote very freely. I deliberately didn’t censor, so there were lots of drafts and lots of characters which came in and were thrown out. In my very first draft Crowley did appear and I very consciously thought that was something Spare himself really wouldn’t have liked, you know because I always got the impression that Crowley was much more interested in Spare than the other way around, and that was the reason not to write about him. So that’s really, that’s how I approached it, I tried to get out of the way and that’s very much to do with my own magical practice anyways. The idea of ‘getting out of the way’ of cultivating, I use this expression of Spare’s, ‘Shining emptiness” but I don’t think it necessarily comes from Spare but it very much defines my own approach, you know, to basically stay out of the way. I didn’t ever want to become an adversary of my subject, does that make sense?

Sarah: Certainly! To let Spare shine through, to try and let Spare speak…

John: “What I didn’t set out to do was to quote him, you know there are two or three of real Spare quotes, the thing about Hitler and probably a couple of other. I didn’t try to avoid it, but I wasn’t trying to get his voice in the sense of looking for great things he’s said that I could cannibalise for the play. I think it’s more my voice, but it’s hopefully a voice that opened up to say what Spare would say if he was me today.

Sarah: I must say that when I caught a glimpse of you in the corner, getting ready, the hairs on my arms went up and I thought to myself “Oh this is going to be good!”

John: “Well of course, it was the mustache! I think I wanted one totemic thing to link to Spare and for me it had to be the mustache. So I grew it deliberately, it was good, I had just about timed it right I allowed 3 weeks and then I actually kept it for the second performance. You came to the second one didn’t you?”

Sarah: I came to the second one.

John: “So the mustache was actually much more fully formed and probably the performance too.”

Sarah: When you wrote it did you know that you would be playing the part of Spare?

John: “No not necessarily, although as I say, I’ve done at least 3 solo performances, I enjoy performing. When I first wrote it, I wrote it for at least 3 actors, and to be honest in plays as a general rule, I avoid acting, because I don’t actually rate myself as an actor. I know many actors and hugely respect them and to me the actors I really respect, they really work in a band, they work with the other actors and I don’t have the self belief for that; whereas if I am alone, I do believe I’ve got an ability to conjure something up in myself, especially if I’ve written it. But with this one, the first draft and the first few drafts were written for at least 3 actors, so I had Hitler and Mrs Paterson as separate manifestations and certainly a Jack and June. The idea was also at that stage, and I always start off thinking big, conceived originally as perhaps a West End production, with the full bells and whistles; smoke and mirrors; ecoplasm! There is a version of it like this, that could be done but I very quickly after I had written it, I realised that I had written a play about somebody who very few people knew. So the chances of persuading the National to stage it was probably remote. The more I thought about it, the more I realised, that if I wasn’t going to do it with these sort of effects, of ghosts and manifestations, then it was better, rather to go half way house, to go right the other way and do it so it’s all in the mind. And in a way that is something I think I know how to do.

Sarah: I think it ended up more powerful to have the audience use their imagination. It feeds into the play, as it were, especially with the counting down at the beginning, you have everyone in a half-trance. Was that intentional?

John: “That is something, at least indirectly, I credit Ion Alexis Will for, because he told me “CROW! You are the man to write a play about Austin Osman Spare…. and I’ll give you the opening scene” It’s not quite the opening scene he gave me, but he did want a scene in which the person as the actor speaks to the audience. He wanted it to be much darker I think, to suggest that something really awful had happened backstage, and I felt that you don’t actually need to ask for those things as they tend to happen anyway, especially in the theatre. So I experimented with different ways, I certainly wanted a framing device, I think it’s always something I’ve a lot of my work and I’ve enjoyed the element of a sort of lecture in my solo work, this element, or other form, rather than the theatrical form. “I Was An Alien Sex God” is all framed as a trial, I had put myself on trial; as it started to develop, writing again quite instinctively, I didn’t really have a masterplan for it, but through it I started to see. It was when I started using the counting down. I was in a workshop and someone was doing some self-hypnosis and it clicked “Yes that is the way to do it, to engage the audience”, you know I’m not literally trying to put people into a deep trance, but certainly the play of that and the invitation to participate.

Sarah: It certainly altered the mood in the room, with that scene…

And you will have to go along to see what I mean! John’s performance was outstanding, his voice holds you captivated, I think I could probably listen to him for hours. The play begins with the countdown mentioned above after John gives a prologue as himself addressing the audience. Once he has fully assumed the role of Spare working his “invincible spell”, he channels various entities; his “exteriorised… shadow-self, Mortestophiles”; his enigmatic mentor, Mrs. Paterson: “Call this a séance? Carry on like this, we’re going to wind up possessed… by ourselves!”; and a most unwelcome admirer, Adolf Hitler. Spare uses “sex magic” to see off Hitler – but a rogue sigil conjures up June, a Woolworth’s shop-girl who has eyes for Spare, her husband Jack (a friend of Austin and fellow civil defense warden) in hot pursuit. Spare tries to explain: “I was thinking of your good wife, but only so as to facilitate the unconscious projection of my conscious desire […] You could even say old June played a vital part: by distracting me from fussing over the true purpose of this spell, thereby allowing it to manifest in my absence”.

“SPARE” is an extraordinary, visionary work of art and magic that will transport you back to Austin’s studio on the Blitz ravaged Walworth Road, the night of the Elephant & Castle bombing and leave you with a sense that you were in fact in the presence of Austin Osman Spare. John has done a marvelous job in evoking Austin, I was enthralled throughout and will be booking up for another viewing soon.

I cannot recommend the play enough, and neither can Glen Tomney who went to the first showing of “SPARE”:

Glen said:  “In recent years, for those in the know about our beloved old ‘Zos’, there has been a wealth of literature produced. Excellent publications from Fulgur, Jerusalem Press and of course Phil Baker’s recent Spare biography, have all given us a plethora of information and images from our boy genius, Artist, occultist, philosopher and mystic, Austin Osman Spare. So it was with keen interest, that when I came to hear John Constable a.k.a. John Crow, was to do a one man performance at Treadwells’, I was quite delighted to see the result. John’s work first came to my attention through two excerpts on a CD which accompanied Orryelle Defenestrate Bascule’s magickal MagiZian ‘Silk-milk’, both were readings and songs from John’s book The Southwark Mysteries. What intrigued me about John, apart from the revealing stories of the Crossbones graveyard and the Winchester geese, was his voice. He has a voice which holds the listener intently and one which is a perfect marriage to how you would imagine Austin’s to sound. I am seated at the back of Treadwells’ basement room. I have walked past John before the performance; he sits hands touching each other with a gleeful yet contemplative smile on his face. I watch enthralled by his performance. He becomes Austin. The props of easel and frame act as a porthole through which we see old Yelga Patterson. Transformations continue and the audience is reminded of Hitler’s admiration for Austin’s work and his eagerness for a portrait from Spare. We are reminded of his friends in the Borough, his sincere love towards animals, much ground is covered. At its ending, within the hour that has passed, you have been transported to Austin’s world which we can now re-visit thanks to John Constable a.k.a. John Crow a.k.a. Austin Osman Spare.”

“This is the Spell that sets us free from fear, free from ourselves. Here is nothing for any entity to fix on to. Only an empty channel, an absence, our shining empty open track-way to the stars…”

- From “SPARE” by John Constable

New dates have been announced:

On the 4th November John goes SPARE for one night only at the White Bear (where Austin Osman Spare exhibited his work):

And then four more nights at Treadwells:

Book soon as the the first two were fully booked in advance!


Text/Interview: Sarah-Jayne Farrer

Tribute to A.O.S: Glen Tomney – The Tree of All
John Constable as SPARE: “In the Chimehours”
Consciousness as Existence: Cobweb – Eolith Designs
Austin Osman Spare: Sarah-Jayne Farrer (automatic drawing from 2012) & Matt Baldwin Ives
Salome: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross
Dream Search: J Philip Panton

John Constable
Cross Bones Graveyard

You may also be interested in John’s Halloween Ghost Walks…

Monday 28 to Thursday 31 October inclusive:


Meet from 6:45pm.
Depart at 7pm sharp from Tabard Street Piazza, Borough High St, London SE1 1JA (Borough tube )
Age: 16 and over.
Tickets: 28, 29, 30 October: £8/£7 concessions; 31 October: all tickets £10 (plus booking fee)
Places limited! Book your place now:

Writer-performer John Constable’s Halloween Walks combine ghost stories, folk-tales and other supernatural happenings with performances from his own work inspired by a real-life encounter with a Winchester Goose, a medieval sex worker licensed by a Bishop!

Featuring: haunted pubs, a Borough magician, a female gladiator, a haunted mirror, the spookiest stretch of the Thames, and the strange but true tale of Cross Bones graveyard… Includes short ritual / performance at gates of Crossbones!

Shub-Niggurath: Beyond the Blood and Wood Smoke – Part 3

When you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he’s insane, which is not to see him at all. To see him you must see what he saw and when you are trying to see the vision of an insane man, an oblique route is the only way to come at it  –  R.M. Pirsig

Shub-Niggurath Asenath

The blaze of the summer evening sun wrung beads of sweat from the Maude’s brow. She pulled back the stray strands of hair stuck to her forehead and placed her hands upon her hips, stretching her back; her swollen stomach pushed out to bid the sun farewell on its descent, casting a golden touch upon the distant hills. Mere weeks had passed since the fateful night Archie had found her room and they had joined together in lustful oblivion, yet her stomach appeared in the final stages of pregnancy. As Maude stood looking out on the open road before her, winding off into the distance to fade into those eldritch wooded hills, a laboured sigh escaped her lips; it was her monody for Archie before the rumbling of thunder joined as an accompaniment. Somewhere vast lightnings stomped the earth, and a storm like a great beast was fast approaching. A melancholy menace with terrible teeth that could not be denied was rolling closer. She had been driving for days, hardly eating or drinking, the only thing that let her know she was still alive were the movements in her womb, which increased daily, at an alarming and abnormal rate.

The book, thrown hastily into the passenger seat, had become somewhat of a guidebook. Instead of sleeping, Maude had spent night after night curled on the back seat reading the elegant cursive handwriting of Archie’s Mother, and caressing her growing belly. Those words would lead her into waking dreams, visions and hallucinations. It is said that no living thing can keep a grasp upon their sanity under conditions of absolute reality for long. It is supposed that even the birds dream, and dream she did, but still her sanity unravelled like a loosed skein of yarn. The fascination and awe had passed, the void that had had been eating away at her insides had been filled with an obsession, dark and dangerous, which consumed her every waking hour as her swollen stomach grew. To her there was now no difference between the things of flesh and blood and those born of deepest, darkest, dreaming. She knew that whatever was created in dream would haunt her upon waking.

Maude brought a cigarette to her lips and lit it as she watched the petrol pump attendant fill her tank. The smell of him disgusted her. The young man, dressed in grubby work clothes looked up from his task and smiled, taking a pause from his idle whistling as he noticed Maude moving closer. There was a sway to her hips that even pregnancy couldn’t hide, and their eyes locked. Hers held a parlous glint, glimmering golden in the setting sun. With a sneer in response to his smile, she had a sudden urge to place a light touch upon the top of his skull. She knew not why. Silently he crumpled to the floor, unconscious eyes rolling back inside his head. Unfazed and locked in a cold daze, Maude placed the pump carefully into the attendant’s mouth, which now hung open, and pushed it deep down his throat with a violent shove. The petrol flowed still, filling him; gallon after gallon.

The sound of the wind rushing through the telegraph wires caught her attention, a sort of whistle that could only be heard in these desolate places far away from civilisation. The earthy aroma of freshly dug furrows rose up to waft around her as the sky erupted with the cacophony of a hundred, distant, disrupted crows. Some say that these were the Soul Guides responsible for escorting the newly deceased to the Otherworlds, or else taking messages back and forth from world to world and into the depths. They do not judge, their duty is to provide only the passage of captured souls, their eerie echoing calls released in unison with the rattle of death, as the poor, wretched soul breathed its last.

The petrol was spilling out of the petrol pump attendant’s mouth and nose now, running from his eyes like tears. As Maude took the last hit from her cigarette she flicked it onto his bloated form, igniting his lifeless body with a rush of billowing flame that arose like the lashing tongues of a hundred devils taunting the heavens. They offered up the acrid smell of burning flesh that would quickly be transformed to bright orange cinder, and finally curl as smoke into the warm breeze which gave it life. Maude inhaled deeply, it was an improvement on the stench of his sweat crusted franchise shirt. She stepped into her car and drove off without as much as a second glance.

The Hill Beside The Canal

It wasn’t long before the road became narrower and narrower until it was nothing more than a dirt track enclosed by high hedges, serpentine in nature. The wheels of Maude’s car kicked up clouds of dust. Through the hedges the woods closed in on one side, on the other she glimpsed open fields. In the middle of such a field, an empty circus tent stood abandoned. What had once been colourful canvas now uninhabited and in tatters flapped faded and limp in the breeze, exposing broken wooden benches and breached iron cages. At one time Maude would have felt a chill run down her spine as she gazed upon this forgotten relic of days gone past. All joy had drained from the very fabric of the place. Now she felt only the unending draw, onwards toward the hills, like a moth to a flame. The sun was just sitting upon the horizon behind her, setting the forested hills to shimmer weirdly off in the east. Soon the sky would be black as pitch and the cold stars would leer down from their black vault, watching and waiting as she wound closer and closer to her destination; before long she would have to carry on by foot, in the dark.

Maude pulled up beside a grassy verge, the night was drawing near and the thick mists were rolling in as she stepped from the vehicle. The diary was now forgotten and her purpose clear. She strode into the forest with a determined gait, knowing where she had to be, and that the path which veered off into the thickly set umbrage needed to be avoided. Although where she was going no path could take her, crooked or no. Often thoughts of her own drifted into her head, reminding her of who she was; thoughts that took her away from the darkest of imaginings that now claimed her mind. As she walked the bare earth she felt her shoes digging into her feet. She remembered how she felt after a long shift talking to Archie, and how she took herself off to the forest to walk barefoot amongst the trees. Remembering she slipped off her shoes and smiled, but soon a dark and brooding veil descended upon her face – not unlike the glittering spider-lace of her dreams. She was another being entirely now – and once more her purpose returned. Through the heavy silence she trudged, unaware of the shadows creeping around her, oblivious to the omnipotent presence that centred its focus solely on her advancing figure. She approached the swampy marshlands that slowed her journey. Sometimes the flickering sanity returned and the wet mud oozing through her toes caused her to shudder. As quickly as the feeling hit it was claimed by a knowing smile. She was coming home, called onward, with a distinct knowledge of all that was around her.

Maude sank further in. As she pushed through the gloomy wastes she lost her footing numerous times. The mud came to her thighs and unable to pull her legs free she would trip on some old sallow stump in the overgrown quagmire, where fear was encamped in the remotest shades of the rank sedge hassocks. Hollows, rudely desolate, rose out of swamps and rancid streams lapped at their spongy banks between the trees, whose deformed branches were bearded with centuries of pendulous lichen. Upon the marshy flats mean dwellings started to appear, wind chimes crudely fashioned from hollowed-out bones graced their gables. They were made from old scraps, fallen branches. Tanned leather weatherproofed them, but what animal had the leather been acquired from this far away from the nearest farm? They looked as if they could be torn down in no time at all, as if they were ready to move on at any moment.

Footsteps could be heard, but not a body seen, within the murksome undergrowth as dark as Erebus. She could smell them. The stale and repugnant scent of decaying leaves and grass wafted in the air joined by a smell, oppressively putrid, that seemed to warp and twist around her nose; the cacodorous aroma of unwashed bodies, the scent of bloated, rotting and mishandled corpses, ozone and singed flesh. Unnaturally large eyes could be seen, gliding disembodied, starring from the jaws of darkness, and a chattering could be heard. From whence their eyes captured their glow, Maude did not know. No moon shone this night, and something resided in the blackness that even the stars hid from. She remembered Archie’s haunting words, recounting the stories of misshapen creatures from the darkest corners of the imagination. Those things had danced upon the blackness of her own eyelids ever since the nightmares had taken hold.

The Elder Sign

As the eyes continued to stare from the darkness pale lights appeared, dancing like sallow flames, leading the way further into the hoary primordial grove. A sickening light caught on those things in the thicket, brief glimpses of clammy skin, broken teeth, filthy hair were afforded her. Maude wanted to plunge her face in the spongy moss and inhale the damp, spicy, smell of rotten leaves and ancient granite beneath the tree roots, to drown out that which now assaulted her nose as she travelled further and further towards the hills. The ground flattened out here and became drier, the wetlands having been drained when they built the canal ways long before. One such canal had been built alongside the hills, as if standing as a border between the hills and forest. Maude approached an old wooden bridge, deeply etched with crude and primitive carving and trodden with dirt. She noticed a little girl with a burnt polka dot dress, walking by dragging a rotting, maggot-riddled, hare behind her. Maude did not flinch, but stood and watched the girl through darkened eyes. She looked familiar, yet she could not discern from where.

The narrow boats at the water side were painted with strange creatures and sigils. Eyes of many colours, now subdued and dirt-encrusted, stared at her from their moorings on the sluggish water. These were the ‘ward signs’ of the water folk, a sign of kith and kin, standing as a warning to scavengers to leave the boats in peace. She remembered Archie’s Mother writing about these folk; coal merchants with grimy-faced children. The waterways used to be full of boats carrying coal and other produce; it was a tough existence requiring many skills and it made an odd sort. These were a strange but cunning folk, quiet and suspicious, with a fearful magic woven around them, along with their own laws and superstitions – water-borne witches and thieves, a dangerous people to barter with.

These people had travelled here from a distant shore, with their tales of prophecy, and portents gleaned from rock pools. They had watched for signs upon the salty sea air and had come to set up home on these banks many, many, moons ago. Archie’s Mother’s diary never made mention of the hovels that swarmed like an epidemic around the base of the hills, amidst the aged and twisted boughs of the Old Wood, surrounded by stagnant pools. These people had certainly settled for the time being, which was strange for folk such as this, nomadic in nature and with travelling in their blood. Maude knew well the reason they stayed. When the abysses between the stars sweep their chill currents over the dark and lonely places, the aroma of sprout and pike stew simmering over embers would drift on the breeze and obscene rites were sure to follow; the worship of their Goat Whore. They were the ‘Chosen Faithful’ they had heard the call of their gods, and possessed by their dreams and visions had formed a frenzied mass of indescribable darkness extending across all of manifestation. The waterways would reach places that civilization had rejected and shunned, far away from watchful eyes. Inspired by their madness and malice they would then glut themselves on each other and the concoctions bubbling in rusted pans.

The canal became as the hill’s moat and these moss-coated hovels – set among millions of podetia bearing goblet-like apothecium, sprawling out from the canal over the damp sloping earth and the strangely decorated narrow boats – were their ramparts. The heat set forth noxious vapours as each hastily assembled dwelling crowded in upon its neighbour, clambering for the chill intimacy of the crowning hill, but never drifting too far from the safety of the heart of their encampment and their lifeline, the canal. Here lay places untrodden by most, where the foul tempests howl and brambles flung far the shadows of scuttling things.

As Maude set her foot upon the bridge, the girl with the rotted hare turned towards her, barring the way and calling to the others. Maude had seen no one, but now, from within shadow and shack, bodies emerged. They crowded in on Maude, speaking in their strange dialect, pointing and cursing, spitting at this woman who had travelled so close to their camp undetected, but as their eyes fell upon the writhing beneath the skin of her abnormally swollen belly, they understood. They had been waiting for one such as her. An old woman pushed her way to the front of the crowd and glanced at the girl before her, her stomach was all she needed to see to grant her entrance, “She has come!”. Maude passed then into unconsciousness, her wearied legs collapsing beneath her weakened form; she couldn’t recall hitting the floor or being caught in hands blackened with coal dust.

Blessed Abomination
In the fleeting moments of lucidity she felt herself being hauled from the bridge, towards the peak, and a half-remembered story surfaced. Was it from the diary, from her childhood, or maybe someone had told it to her once? She could recite it word for word, and the messages hung in the air. How could she forget a story such as this? Her clothes were ripped from her and thrown aside, a pan of greasy water was offered and brought to her parched lips; she accepted and drank deeply, but it did nothing to quench the raging thirst and burning nerves as the procession began. Chanting rose up from all sides and she was led, naked and filthy, through the growing crowd to jeers and laughter, to mumbled prayers and cries of joy. She was close enough to smell the putrid odours emanating from them, and their raucous noise made her head split. Through the short and narrow streets between their ramshackle huts she was dragged, led by the old woman, as hands reached out to touch her. Maude’s bare mud-soaked legs trailed across the ground. Her arms were draped around the shoulders of two broad men, her head dangling forward as they approached Maude’s final calling point.

As she looked around, she saw the large and foreboding door. At first glance the heavy oak and its bolts were intact, but upon closer inspection she noticed the warping and its wood crawling with infestation. Upon it vulgar drawings were carved, echoing the bridge she had crossed. The scratch marks were deep, too deep for human nails. She saw then the splayed hinges and the cracked bolts, and her eyes took in the ancient abomination; a crumbling chapel, lost and forgotten. The old woman pulled on Maude’s hair, yanking her head up to face her, the shadows cloaking her face better than any mask. Maude knew this was where she was meant to nod her assent of what would occur, although could not quite remember exactly she was nodding for. She had become the character in one of the stories she had been told, and she watched with baited breath, as if looking through a mirror darkly. The story continued with the opening of the strange door, and the sweetly repulsive smells surrounding the nostrils of all who stood near.

It reminded her of Archie, from the sweet and sickly smell to the cacophony of sound growing near to her. Archie? She had almost forgotten about him, her reality was broken, her mind shattered and here she took the last step in the journey, knowing that her fate was accepted and honoured. And as they dressed her in silken robes, a glint of light caught on a blade as the old woman approached, the flesh-carved sigils needed to be drawn.

Maude lay draped in diaphanous robes, within the dark chapel of the ruined church. She could see the revelers beginning their obscene rites, as if they ushered her unbirthed child into the world. Her distended belly glistened with sweat and as the freshly carved sigils upon her skin wept crimson trails she noted that all the windows were broken. All except for one. The fires from outside the chapel set the stained glass aglow, and a depiction a Saint Maude had never laid eyes on set its terrifying gaze upon her. Not even her rosary, long destroyed, would afford her a measure of comfort here. The pews were smashed and defiled, the altar cracked and the floor tiles broken and lifted, revealing the damp earth beneath. The place hummed with a deep resonance, as if the very walls were alive. The altar, the damp disturbed earth upon which Maude now lay, seemed to throb beneath her naked rump.

Maude’s hair was soaked with perspiration brought forth by the pain of the seemingly never-ending contractions which came closer together now. The humid sticky heat pressed down upon her. Through the crumbling walls and broken windows Maude watched from her vile nest. The Chosen Faithful danced and writhed, spewing forth brackish water and sea foam which cascaded from open mouths as their bodies contorted and twisted into ecstatic shape. Gagging and choking upon bladder wrack as the scent of iodine filled the air; elevated, transcended and transformed by their archaic faith. The drums beat out the rhythm of lunacy, accompanied by their sonorous chanting. A hunting horn resounded through the last vestiges of a once great and holy place, now been returned to darkness, reclaimed, defiled and ravaged. Stark winds of change, bearing razor-blade caresses, winds that sang of the darkness between the stars and threatened to become apocalyptic storm, whistled through the devastated walls as Maude watched their crazed rituals take a more rigorous turn; circling around the desecrated chapel, fornicating on the gravestones. She joined them in their malefic tune, adding her own gut wrenching screams of agony.

The Mi-Go

The old woman became as her midwife; bent, crooked, and cauled in darkened linen that covered her dirty grey hair. She scuttled from reveler to reveler collecting the briny vomit issued forth from recesses deep, bringing with it the scent of the churned ocean, miles and miles away. She mopped Maude’s brow and scraped the rough cloth over her tender parts with harsh uncaring hands; washing away the waters which had broken in a brutal flood and ran down her thighs onto the earth. The chanting lulled Maude into a half-trance; all she was aware of now was the rhythm of the sonorous voices and the pain. “The sword-thrust not salve, I bring!” Uttered the old woman, mumbling to herself in the similar guttural tones that Archie emitted endlessly in those final months. She manipulated Maude into the correct birthing position with the poking of bony fingers and the slapping of exposed flesh, upon which rested pools of unevaporated sweat. Maude felt as if she were breathing water as flies swarmed around her birthing chamber, the rancid heat bringing with it an odoriferous and cloying funk.

She became an animal then, lost to her pain, lost to the madness, lost to the night as she stared upon the Saint in the window; a shepherdess dressed in an ebon habit with goat’s tails and cloven hooves and tortuous tentacles. Maude remembered those with a shiver and a howl. Maude’s thoughts drifted back to the Nun she had seen beside the road before she had entered the wood proper, her laughter hissing through her broken teeth as she breastfed a baby, still and horrendously deformed, forever graven upon her memory.

Upon her knees now, Maude growled, gritting her teeth against the pain as the midwife scuttled back and forth, washing her down with the briny water of the ecstatic worshippers. “It’s time”, the midwife hissed, her face close to Maude’s, giving her a good look at her features. Those eyes. That grimace. She has seen them before, but she couldn’t remember where, Archie was now a distant memory.
Maude bore down, howling into the night, the vocalisation of her inner turmoil. Her deep anguish filled the woods and would be heard for miles around, but there was no one to hear her. Again the contractions seized her and she bore down. Pushing, panting, sobbing uncontrollably as the ground shifted beneath her, maggots and worms writhing beneath the palms of her hands, crawling up onto her skin. Flies descended upon her, and as her nest became as a cesspool, a realisation hit her. She was the living vessel in which The Goat Whore used to birth her thousand young. She was the egg from which vile corruption would spill forth into the land. It had come too far now, she could not stop what was about to unfold. Push. Breathe. Scream. Push. Breathe.

And then they came spilling from her, unholy abominations by the thousand, pinkish and fungoid, to fall upon the filthy unconsecrated ground; mewling horrors raising their convoluted fleshy mass as their antennae twitched. The Mi-Go had been born. And as a wave of fatigue rushed over Maude, the adrenaline wore out and she passed once again into unconsciousness.

It started with a licking and nibbling as the young crawled up onto her, seemingly to suckle, but soon the nourishing of the young began in a feast of the flesh. She was a human sacrifice, the last honour she could give to the ravenous hordes of an ancient goddess. Forgotten and filled with wrathful vengeance. Complete annihilation was demanded. The price had to be paid.

And as Maude’s screams echoed through the night, the noise of the worshipers grew silent. Soon the smoke from the superheated coal aboard the blazing narrow boats filled the skies. She was alone at the end, with just the company of the eyes of that Saint, staring down coldly from above the senescent altar. Maude’s suffering ended, her blood seeping into the exposed earth of that unholy chapel and the reflections of the flames, now tearing through the encampment, were caught dancing across the murky, reed-filled waters…

Trees Come Down

Something terrible came to the hills and valleys on that meteor, and something terrible — though I know not in what proportion — still remains  –  HP Lovecraft


Text: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Editorial Adjustments: Sairah Brighton and Cobweb Mehers

Shub-Niggurath – Asenath Mason  – Unholy Vault & Asenath Mason’s Darkfolio

The Hill Beside The Canal – Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross

The Elder Sign – Matt Baldwin-Ives

Blessed Abomination – Matt Baldwin-Ives

The Mi-Go – Matt Baldwin-Ives

Trees Come Down – Cobweb – Eolith Designs

Shub-Niggurath: Beyond the Blood and Wood Smoke – Part 2

Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival… a survival of a hugely remote period when… consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity… forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds…

Algernon Blackwood

Part 2

Keep off the Grass
If you listened closely enough you would have been able to hear the coarse bristles scratch against the thickly grained paper. The tip of the brush, coated in a sickly green – the colour of dead grass after the snow has cleared and of rank weed on algae infested marshes – was worked slowly across the page. Archie sat slumped over his efforts, his face close to where the bristles and paper met, spittle running in long lines from his mouth onto his creation, only to be mixed into the paint. The ward staff had tried to wipe his mouth on occasion as he worked, but now knew better. Every now and then the slow, precise movements of his tool of art would stop and in a fit of rage Archie would stab at the page. The low guttural tones, which seemed to be almost constant now, would fly into tortured shrieks and screams as if he were trying to put an end to the images he created, each more terrifying than the previous, only to throw the now bent-bristled brush across the room and scramble for another, snarling at his fellow wards.

These art therapy classes were the institution’s last hope before more drastic measures were taken. Archie’s behavior had become increasingly worrying since he had found a way to leave his room at night. No one knew how, even under heavy sedation, restraints and lock and key, he would still be found wandering as if searching the halls, decrepit and effete, for something in the middle of the night. When approached he became violent; violence in man with a stature as powerful as his could be dangerous. Staff had been sent to the infirmary with broken ribs, bruised eyes and missing teeth. Archie’s legs and arms would lash out with a roaring and bellowing and a cracking of bones, not like the famous explorer he once was but now an unprincipled barbarian, locked and hidden away, yet still uncontrollable.

The art teacher was the only one who would come close to Archie while he worked, usually to utter words of encouragement, but today the man stood stock still and stared at the piece in front of him. It was different from the others, which could have been studies of nameless, hideous abnormalities, profoundly anthropomorphic beings from beyond our scope of knowing. Dissected parts of human and animal, captured skillfully, had been discordantly woven together in an insane jigsaw puzzle of limb and tentacle, horn and hoof, by the brush of a man whose grip on reality had faltered. “Oh dear, Archie” was all the tutor could muster. Archie was lost then to a deep laughter, one that climbed its way out from the pit of his stomach and erupted into a bout of hysterics that sickened the soul. Delirious, yet utterly humourless.

The ward staff had been compiling their case notes on Archie for over a year now, and with the evidence gathered from his art class, Maude’s reports from their one to one meetings, the barrage of medicals, tests, prodding and poking, one failed medication after another; they only had one option left open to them. Their aim was to rewire his brain. To completely eradicate his memories, his sense of self, to take him back to the beginning and in that annihilation it was their hope that the cause of his insanity would be erased from his mind. Whatever had tortured him in the past to break him so would be gone. The first round of electroconvulsive therapy would start that very eve. It was a higher does than usual patients received, as Archie was considered too far gone to be saved by conventional methods.

Therapeutic Art
As the appointed hour drew near Maude’s heart fluttered within her chest as she watched Archie, trapped in this melancholic stupor, slowly wheeled in by the porter. Heavily medicated he was, his head lolling like a string-cut puppet, unfocused eyes darting helplessly around the room. Archie’s gaze rested upon her momentarily, before it left again to chase untold visions as he tried to lift his arms to flap at the unseen hellions that accosted him. It was to be a simple affair. Archie’s doctor was to be assisted by Maude and the technician, the one who would calibrate the voltage, check the tiny bronze gauge and initiate the procedure when the time was right. Maude stood by, sporting Dr. Hargreaves’ stethoscope; he was a kindly gentleman who had great compassion for his patient’s predicament. Although quiet, the atmosphere was far from tranquil, and the doctor spoke in hushed tones to the technician who adjusted the cold metal machinery in accordance with the doctor’s instruction. Emotion flounders and yields to the scientific precision Maude reflected, as she methodically attached the leather mounted steel electrodes to Archie’s temples and placed the gauze-wrapped, well used, rubber pipe between his teeth as a necessary bite-block.

As the lights dimmed Maude sat close beside Archie, listening intently to the rhythm of his breathing, her index finger firmly aware of his subdued pulse. A sudden, harsh crackling of electricity followed the sharp clang of metal, singing coldly, as the hospital technician threw the switch. Archie’s respiration was arrested. His body lurched in wild spasm and his wretchedly pale face contorted in silent screaming as the volts tore relentlessly through him. Lips bled, teeth cracked and his trembling sweat-covered face rippled in convulsion as his locked jaw emitted a ghastly grinding sound. Dr. Hargreaves called this ‘trismus’.


Seconds were counted since respiratory arrest. Archie’s face took on a pallid blue tinge and Maude noted that his heart beat had accelerated rapidly, riding the electrical current. The floor was wet now with perspiration, the stench of fear and burning hair filled the room. Her cold eyes were locked upon him, the tension of his broken frame, in fascination. Maude’s nostrils flared as her nipples strained against the fabric of her taut uniform, a strange, primal state of arousal was upon her. She surveyed his moist flesh with a predator’s gaze and hungry wonder, savouring the aroma of the passing moments and the deliciously dark visions between them.

A mirror. A black mirror on a bare darkened wall. She stands half in half out. On one side she looks familiar; her auburn hair tied neatly into a bun, she struggles to free herself from the aberration which now made up her left side, within the mirror itself. A convoluted assemblage of white flesh supported on many-jointed bony legs, luminescent appendages swirling around her, pulling at her. It sung its crooning songs, and she responded with dark hymns. As it devoured her from within, the two sent up a catastrophic noise, which ripped open the gateway. The mirror shattered to a million shards as the writhing mass of tentacle and bone surged forth to swallow everything with its goat-like jaws, its crustacean horns curling grotesquely above its head.


Archie’s racing pulse and near-bursting heart was in her care; her hand, now upon his thigh, squeezed slightly as he thrust back and forth. Helpless.

Poor boy. Caged, crucified and completely under her control now. His life was hers.

Cradled by the fizzling, spitting machine and just one delicate, wrong word of instruction and his mortal existence would cease.

Just the thought set her to quivering.

A malign and dangerous ardor was upon her; ever since the dreams had started she had felt herself becoming free of any former moral constraints and now, instead of uttering prayers for this man before her, other thoughts now rushed in to replace her professional code of conduct, her Sunday School conscience.

Had the treasured rosary her Mother gifted her really joined the other trinkets, all recently crushed under the fury of her hammer? Simple meaningless memory tokens joining the slow exodus to the land of the discarded and long forgotten.

Healing the Demented

A girl stood with her back to him. He approached her slowly, the night was cold and the cavern was dark. The girl should have been shivering but yet she stood motionless. Not a hair moved, even as the chill breeze curled around them. Ready with his jacket, ever the gentleman, he reached out for her. In a swift inhuman motion she faced him, he recognized that face, but… What had happened to her eyes? The holes where her eyes should have been were now filled with a tar-like liquid, which rippled within her sockets, deep, jetty black, and cast an hideous contrast as it ran down her snow-white cheeks.


Blood and sweat stained, Archie’s muscles relaxed somewhat and the convulsions started to diminish as his pulse began its gradual descent. Completely entranced now, Maude was hardly able to carry out her assigned tasks with the due diligence she was known for. Her thoughts dwelled upon the dreams that had haunted her progressively over the months.

Within them she had travelled deep into that lair and each time she felt the very essence of her soul being replaced with something else, piece by piece. A deep yearning had stirred within her. A yearning for what she did not know, but she had woken numerous nights at well past midnight, to find herself half way through obscene rituals in front of her mirror, as if her subconscious had taken over. These nocturnal rites had let something free, something which leeched into the institution and herself via the gateway, the portal, which hung upon the barren wall of her bed chamber.

As fate would twist and warp its crooked course, her only direct and mortal key to these mysteries was before her having the painful memories, these visual and sensual doorways, brutally eradicated. With each second of each moment, Archie’s pathways were fading, the gateways closing and the keys dissolving.

Maude knew that all would not be lost this time, for no man could bear to lose all in one therapeutic session, the shock to the mind would be cataclysmic. Dr. Hargreaves had high expectations for this new psychiatric approach to Archie’s trauma. Although Maude on the other hand sported tense reservations and, in all honesty, hoped that the process would fail so that Archie’s secrets would remain intact to be revealed in time.

The undulating shapes wound within the gnarled branches, their shifting forms, fluid and spectral, led the way. The girl had traveled into the great forest through the marshes, reed-clogged and sluggish. Those sticky waters lapped against the unhallowed banks and through the gaps in the trees, the fire rose. An almighty pyre burning up the night. Cavorting worshipers shuddered and trembled in harmony with the vibrations emanating from drums and inarticulate cries, and the prayers which were sent up to bring the Creeping Chaos forth for Her lair. Oh god, if you could only see those that lurk and leer in the perpetual daemon twilight – The Chosen Faithful – their shrieking and howling, drawing her further on. She was doomed now as she entered their midst. The black shaggy entities, naked humans with their bodies bending into unnatural positions, backs bent, heads thrown back, and those made of coils of white jelly, fungoid and inhuman inspiring madness in those gathered, were present in loathsome profusion.

Archie emitted a deep stertorous sigh, a kind of snorting that enforced epilepsy can facilitate and as his cyanosis diminished, his flesh tones, breathing and cardiovascular systems returned to ‘acceptable’; no one uses the term ‘normal’ within the Asylum walls. The treatment team gave an audible sigh themselves, the room wasn’t hot as such but they all wiped at the film of perspiration that had formed upon their stressed and furrowed brows. A porter, Philip, was ushered in and quietly asked to return Archie back to his room, once the wires had been disconnected and disinfected.

Philip slowly wheeled the creaking chair, Archie’s pitiful chariot, along the shadow filled winding hallways. Meanwhile, Dr. Hargreaves wiped and adjusted his spectacles and commenced the report and post treatment assessment to cover the procedure administered and arrange the next and final sessions for the following days.

Pouring himself a brandy, he reflected upon the terrible illness that had afflicted and tormented his patient and pondered upon the wonderful scientific equipment they were blessed to employ in the healing of the terminally demented. Signed and sealed, the next treatments would effectively wipe the slate of a troubled soul, allowing him to find peace within his own mind.

The abrogation of all that was Archie had begun.

Flashback of Madness
That sound. That sound! Oh how he hated that sound, the rattling of the trolley as it conveyed the equipment required for the administration of his next electroconvulsive shock. The walls seemed to close in, the ceiling mottled with clusters of black and brown mold drawing closer. The suffocating structure, from which only death could release him, constricted around him until he could not move from the bed. He could feel it pressing against his chest and the stifled screams from the neurotics, paranoids and psychopaths – the psychological dysfunctional – could be heard still and his room, not unlike a cell, became his torture chamber as once again, for the third day, they entered the room to strap him to their machine. Each flash was a great jolt surging through him until he thought his bones would break; his blood would over boil and melt away his skin. Again they left him alone, buried within the womb of darkness, where all was lost. He felt himself being torn away, until nothing remained.

Hours turned into days and days into weeks, and finally Archie sat upright in bed, astonished to find himself in an empty cell, completely ignorant of what had happened. Confused, shaken, the blank holes in his mind setting him into a panic, a terrifying chilling anxiety gripped at his throat and threatened to overwhelm him. He sobbed, he did not know why, he could not remember. Where was he? Who was he? We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place, but what if we are haunted still by those things that were meant to have been torn out of us? He threw the covers off of his legs and stepped down from the bed, his muscles were weak, but he had somewhere he needed to be. His eye was caught then by a book, a thick volume smelling of age and filled with time-battered leaves. He opened it and flicked through the pages, which were filled with a strange writing he could not understand. He tucked the book beneath his arms and headed out of his unlocked room, into the night-time corridors.

Archie’s aimless wandering had brought him towards a door. It pulsed, as if time and space bent around it. He had no clue as to where his erratic ambling had taken him. He knocked. There was a quick movement and the sound of garment’s being donned. The door slowly cracked open and there she stood. Maude, but not quite the Maude he knew, a darkness manifesting within her gaze. While Archie could not remember his own name, who he was, or his past, he remembered her; though he had no idea how he had found her room in the labyrinthine halls, caught unrelentingly in the grips of his lunacy. She seemed unsurprised to see him at this hour of the night, the halls silent in their deterioration. The crumbling paint, the cracked tiles of an institution well passed its heyday and in dire need of repair; worn-out, battered and now corrupted with the chaotic and primordial force she had let loose, to seep into the very fabric of the building and to consume the inmates with aid of their mental condition, one by one.

She opened the door and stepped aside to let him in, with a seductive curl to her lips, without a word. No, definitely not the same Maude. His scent reached her; the harsh medicated and somewhat leathery smell of carbolic soap, the skin of his freshly shaven head – though it looked as though his face hadn’t been seen a razor in a day or two – and a manly musk that was all his own. They stood silently for a moment, staring at each other. Maude took the first step, pulling him towards her, into her embrace. The months and months of tension between the two, and the forbidden nature of their tryst, fueled their passions all the more. In the violence of their lustful delirium, cries and entreaties were stifled with the entangling of their tongues, which only proved to make their passions more ardent. The dark desires that had tumbled through their dreams over these past months, soared on scorched wings. Her body, the forgotten altar remembered, was worshiped at, over and over again.

After the ecstasy and blinding white light Archie lay listening to Maude’s deep, rhythmic and completely sated breath while she slept, the beads of sweat upon her back turning to chilled rivulets. He remembered then what he had been carrying with him on his wanderings. He didn’t know what it was of course; pages filled with an indecipherable script and aberrant pencil sketches of nefarious entities, but somehow he thought Maude should have it and left the book upon the top of her chest of drawers as he pulled his pajamas back on.

Archie kissed the forehead of her naked form, “Sleep well” he whispered as he once again felt the madness taking hold. First the fog descended and then the hallucinations slammed down upon him; he fought it hard this time, he had something he needed to do. He clung tight to the last strands of his sanity as he ran through the halls, urgently trying to get to that place he knew he needed to be, shouting and spitting at the monstrosities taunting him from the shadows. Archie let himself into the art room. He was to create his greatest masterpiece…

The Horror
In his urgency Archie pulled pail after pail of paint from the shelves searching for the brushes and canvas, the thick paint set him to slipping and sliding across the tiled floor. A table here, a wheelchair there, easels were knocked over in his haste and the weakness in his legs gave in. They collapsed from beneath him, sending him down hard, sprawled across the floor. He used his body then, his fingers and limbs to create his art; spreading the paint out across the floor until his arms too buckled beneath him, his face crashing to the floor. In his terror-stricken torment he took in a deep breath to try and quell his distress, but instead of air, paint filled his lungs, which sent him coughing and spluttering. He could not move, he could not raise his face from the floor so again the paint was breathed in, coating the inside of him, filling the ventricles.

The failing air and paint fought hard in wild abandon within Archie’s lungs as more of the slimy liquid was sucked in. Lights flashed across his vision as he desperately clawed at the paint, trying hard to raise his face from the mere inches that covered the art room floor. His limbs were as heavy as lead; the medication had finally caught up with him. Archie’s eyes were ablaze now with lightning and the violet glow of Saint Elmo’s fire, dancing like a Libertine let loose. The mess sprawled out around him became as his ocean and the sea’s swollen womb brought forth wave upon wave, each a greater birth, pushing Archie back into darkness and edging him closer and closer to the fearful maelstrom that resided beneath the waves, whose arms and tentacles were extended to receive him as a doomed vessel. Slow and steady was their approach, bringing the stench of the blackest sea bed towards the land of the living. Razor-sharp of tooth, unsparing of fang they were, with crustacean armour enfolding luminescent bodies, their tentacles pulling him further and further into the depths.

If his mouth and lungs hadn’t been so full to the bursting with paint, he would have sent up a wail that would chill the blood. The more he struggled, the more disorientated he became, up and down, left and right had no meaning and nothing made sense. His chest burned. His mouth instinctively opened and the paint flooded in once more as he convulsed uncontrollably, setting his masterpiece of scattered paint around him into a mass of seething colour. The pressure was devastating and crushing as his heart bled into his rib cage. The aphotic depths of his own raging insanity and crippling fear held him tightly within their clammy grasps.

Could it have ended another way? Surely; it didn’t matter now as his life slowly dwindled away, his muscles relaxed, his heartbeat slowed down and the panic faded away to numbness as an odd calm descended upon him. The end was nearly there, just beyond his grasping hands. The madness would cease, the memories that surfaced in his dreaming and hallucinations – those that had been ripped out of him during the moments he had sizzled in blue volts like the Horned Lizard tossing on hot gravelly flats – would drift away to oblivion and he would be far from Maude and what she was becoming. Oh sweet Maude, was that her taste still upon his tongue? Wave after wave lashed down upon Archie and the backs of these beasts were his Stygian ferry, brutally dragging him down to the caverns deep beneath the forgotten ocean floor; there they would scale odious bridges across oily rivers to where dank chaos resides and all is lit by insipid phosphorescence. Death took him.

“The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, and your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you; they’re freeing your soul. So, if you’re frightened of dying and… You’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.”

Meister Eckhart

Silently, secretly and most shamefully, Maude had watched boiler suited porters bearing Archie’s pallet wood coffin, slowly to the simple graveyard beside the asylum; she couldn’t bring herself to be in proximity but now, as the daylight receded, she knelt before his grave tracing the letters of his name with her fingertips, she knew why.



A frozen void had opened out within her, a yawning abyss from which no tears could leech, a black Hell in which vile flames of obscene passions had been kindled.

She opened the book that Archie had left in her room the night of his death. As she flicked through the pages, she realised what she held in her hand. She had heard so much about this book from Archie that to finally see it with her own eyes took her breath away, Archie’s Mothers diary.

Did the writing and drawings therein lay as proof that the tales spilt from Archie were actually true, or perhaps evidence of a lineage of madness with a propensity to afflict others beyond the blood bond?

The mask of respectability had been secured back in place but there were deep cracks appearing.

She had to fill this awful nothingness, the encroaching screaming silence.

At all costs, she had to find that hill, amidst the aged and twisted boughs of the Old Wood.

Amor E Morte

‘She stepped forth from the trees and surveyed those who lay naked and prostrate against the ground before Her. Her horns pointing blasphemously at the heavens and the nipples of Her thousand breast stood taught and erect. The blackness contorted around Her and reaching out from about Her form were hundreds of writhing tentacles, flooding the hollow like spilled ink upon water. Oh how they screamed for the Goat Whore of a Thousand Young!’

Text: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Editorial Adjustments: Matt Baldwin-Ives

Keep of the Grass: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross

Therapeutic Art: Matt Baldwin-Ives

Healing the Demented: Ian Thurlby – Miles Cross (model Matt Baldwin-Ives)

Flashback of Madness: Rayvn Navarro, aka Sidhe Rose Graphics (SRG) – Rayvn’s Facebook Page
You can also find Sidhe Rose Graphics (SRG) products on Yur Digital (sidherose)

The Horror: Ian Thurlby & Matt Baldwin-Ives

Amor E Morte:
Matt Baldwin-Ives (stock image by Meltys at DeviantArt)

Shub-Niggurath: Beyond the Blood and Wood Smoke

“Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death”: R.D. Laing (1927-89)

Part 1

“The place was strange, dark and half-lost, as quiet as the bright-shining moon which slid inexorably through the starlit sky” Maude, his nurse, stopped mid-motion, ran to her notebook and took up her pencil. It had been weeks since Archie had experienced even a moment’s lucidity. Over the past months she had filled page after page with the stories that spilled forth from him, between the drooling and snarling, the crying out of names she had never heard, often ceasing momentarily to be replaced by the morose silence, in which Archie would stare, hour after hour beyond the walls and windows while sobbing inconsolably.

Surpassing all hope, medication and surprise from the ward staff, today it was as if his senses had been returned to him and the man she had heard so much about was sitting there before her, ready to regale her with coherent tales from his past. Although Archie’s tales were far from rational, she hoped that within the retelling she would glean the explanation for his psychological breakdown and deep mental anguish. “It’s always important to set the scene for a good story”, he exclaimed patting the chair beside him, as he beckoned her closer with a broad but forced smile.

Archie cleared his throat, “As a boy I had been enthralled with the folklore and legends of the wooded hills bordering my hometown, and like a farmyard cat, my curiosity always got the better of me. It has propelled me around the world, you see? It has sent me off wandering and searching, discovering places long lost to us”, Maude looked up from her note-taking; a sparkle rested within his eyes and a smile, more natural now, crossed his face, as if he remembered a time, not long passed, before his madness had taken hold. “Whispered old stories and mournfully sung shanties tell of some strange folk who had taken to an odd sort of ‘worship’ up in the hills and those who said prayers at these gatherings returned somewhat different. Some spoke of those being possessed by something that lived deep within the Earth, something that would surface when Her worshiper’s cavorting, fueled by their blood rites, insatiable lust and the insane beat of the broken land and howling of the stars, had reached its peak in raucous laughing, singing and screaming into Cimmerian murk.

The Chosen Faithful, I believe they called themselves. Come she would, devour them she did, only to regurgitate them anew, as something not quite what it once was. Changed is a word which barely scratches the surface of what was unfolding in that backwater community. Eyes not like our eyes, their smell highly abnormal. The old church goers regarded these people as odd types to be feared and mistrusted, they knew of the gatherings but chose to ignore them; preferring instead to dwell upon their families, businesses and day to day tasks.

These times are now long forgotten and blame for the disappearance of people has been placed firmly upon the traveler’s unplanned and unaccustomed footing, lack of skill and getting hopelessly lost in the thick fogs. Still, the place is avoided by most and most are unsure why – they have never looked deep enough. Those who do happen to venture back, come with curious stories of disembodied sounds, of amorphous shapes shifting beneath the water or winding between the pitch black aisles of gnarled trees. So, these happenings become myth and part of our collective folk memory, but no one dared to walk these hills after dark, and upon entering adulthood and after my mother died, I inherited her diaries; an excerpt will haunt me until the day I die.

‘She stepped forth from the trees and surveyed those who lay naked and prostrate against the ground before Her. Her horns pointing blasphemously at the heavens and the nipples of Her thousand breast stood taught and erect. The blackness contorted around Her and reaching out from about Her form were hundreds of writhing tentacles, flooding the hollow like spilled ink upon water. Oh how they screamed for the Goat Whore of a Thousand Young!’

My mother had never taken to these tales in my memory and her words shocked me at first, confused me and worried me. Again, I was curious. Why had my mother never spoken of this? I had to find now the Goat Whore of a Thousand Young.”

He then described to Maude, his journey through the forested hills, the forlorn pools in which lurked things beyond our wildest imaginings, atramentous and sinuous. Maude scribbled as she listened, being taken on a journey along with the words, which fell now at a rate she’d never experienced, from his lips; as if he knew the insanity would again strike soon.

“I can remember the scent of the grass as I crushed it underfoot, careful not to make a sound. I had come to find the entrance to the caves deep below the hills; I had heard tell that they could be accessed, not very easily, through a tunnel about halfway up the rock escarpment. Somewhere. It took me close to a month to find it, but find it I did; entangled with bramble, fern and vine. I could smell charcoal and granite, the harsh fungal aroma of the deeply veiled Earth at long past midnight and decaying black fruits – blackberries, juniper and sloe – and blood, I’ll never forget the blood!

That metallic smell assaulted me more than anything, so strong it was, I could taste it. It was a mingling of scents that hinted at a journey underground, and that’s where I would be going. Carefully, very carefully I would have to scale those old stones, lichen-encrusted and covered with moss; treacherous underfoot”, he paused to take a breath and Maude feared that the madness would soon descend again; she implored him silently to hold on.

“I had squeezed myself into the opening in the face of the hill, and entered into a large chamber, what I saw there sent chills down my spine and made my blood run cold. Before me lay eyes, a multitude of eyes, covering the floor they were. Plucked and thrown there to guard the way, as far as I could see, to watch those who entered into these dark spaces. Do you know what the light of a lantern looks like reflecting off thousands of glittering plucked eyes?” Maude raised her eyes from her notes to meet his, but said nothing. “Their optical nerves still attached and writhing like a new found species? Tumbling over one another, like an undulating wave of tentacle and sphere? It’s beautiful…” his attention was caught then by a flurry of activity outside the window.

A sudden squall of dark feathers, dust and ruffled blurring against El-Greco clouds, which were set to burst over Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, home for the mentally deranged, in a fearsome storm that very evening. As he watched the two Sparrows fighting over a scrap of food, the vacant expression returned to him. Sadness descended upon his fragile mind, and with the return of deep melancholy, the drooling and indecipherable whispering began again.

Although Maude took her notes still, her hands were shaking now and the colour had drained from her face, as she listened closely to the guttural tones that emanated from somewhere deep within Archie, she shivered visibly. Whatever this man had witnessed, had broken his mind. She stared down at her furiously scribbled notes and sighed, these stories he told her had to be another symptom of his insanity, even though he seemed so lucid, with his full faculties about him, and if she may allow herself to think so, in fact quite charming. These pages were proof enough of the man’s sickness. How could a man such as this dream up these vile stories, one after the other? There couldn’t be a remote chance that anything he had confided to her, oft times in the darkest hours of the night, could possibly have happened the way he said it had.

Maude took to her room, her shift was long over and here in the confinement of these walls, simply furnished with a bed, a chair, a chest of drawers and a mirror, which hung on a barren wall, she could find some respite from the day. She changed swiftly into her nightgown and sat before the mirror brushing out her long hair, which had been tied up in a bun, working out the knots in a repetitive motion over and over again.

She stared into the mirror at her own gaunt reflection. The stories tonight had been longer than usual and Archie’s tales had certainly shaken her. She was jumping at shadows, she saw them shift and move behind her as she brushed, but she knew an overactive imagination had always been her curse.

She quickly knelt beside the bed, as any good Catholic woman does before sleep, and ran her fingers over the rosewood beads of her rosary. She tried to let herself be calmed and soothed by her prayers, but the warmed wood between her fingers gave her more pleasure this evening than the empty words she uttered into the darkness. As the flickering candle once again set the room to motion in a swirl of capricious ebon shades, she gave up and crawled into bed, clutching her rosary to her chest.

Maude was close to sleep now, visions from Archie’s stories had infiltrated and embedded themselves into blackness behind her closed eyelids, and as she drifted off she found herself at the entrance of his cave.

Across its front, spiders had woven their webs into a shawl of lace, the work of long decades. In the gloom Maude could hardly see anything, but still she sank deeper, her only source of light was the candle she carried. In contrast to the dancing shadows, the excitement that had lit her eyes, which had been awakened from the catching of webs on her hair and shoulders, almost veil-like, had given way to a strange calm. There she stood, candle in hand, draped in glittering spider-lace and upon ground that was patched unevenly with black ivy, almost another being entirely. Movement caught her attention and the sound of slithering drifted upon the near-silence, she dared not look down as she knew what she would find there; a mass of eyes, looking for her, watching her, guarding the way. So she stepped carefully, her own eyes drawn to a flickering light at the back of the cavernous depths, which caught upon the moving ground like a thousand shimmering black diamonds. Beautiful.

Squinting against the flames from the torches everything appeared as watercolour, all drip and shimmer, lost edges of things gone forever, but is anything really gone forever? It was a strange thing to ponder in a place like this, especially as her feet fell now upon worn winding stairs that she hadn’t notice herself approach, a spiral staircase leading downwards. This was a dream all of her own devising now, as Archie’s reminiscing had stopped at this point earlier this evening. Even as strong as the torchlight may have appeared on entering it in no way dispelled the darkness, which seemed to eat at it, as if it imposed down upon the light and threatened to crush it out. Here and there thin beams, which should have been pools, threaded between stalagmite and stalactite within the brooding gloom, and filled slowly with dust motes; a myriad stars revolving, in slow grave order, around the empyrean vault.

Down and down and down. The stairs seemed to wind on forever as Maude stepped from one beam of light to another. She had been afraid to look too deeply into the shadows that surrounded her, but something grew within the dark margin to the side of her; a presence, terrifying and old. Oh so old. She could not see it, but she could feel it and fear grew upon her as she started to run, to careen down the stairs at a maddening pace. Maude lost her footing and fell. She did not know how long or how far she fell, but she landed upon cold stone hard enough to clear her lungs of air. From out of the shadows She stepped and the words from Archie’s mother’s diary rang in Maude’s ears – “Her horns pointing blasphemously at the heavens and the nipples of Her thousand breasts stood taught and erect. The blackness contorted around Her and reaching out from about Her form were hundreds of writhing tentacles, flooding the hollow like spilled ink upon water”.

What Archie failed to describe were the goat-like legs, and the coal-like lustre of her skin. Maude could not take her eyes of the thing that had manifested before her; truly horrifying yet deliciously stimulating and overwhelmingly seductive. She felt herself melt into these feelings, overcome by waves of passion and atavistic remembrance and any hope of resisting was replaced by the gradually moistening of mind, body and soul.

The ink-like tendrils that emanated from Her sought for Maude in the darkness, they knew what they were to find, what they needed to find. Slow and serpentine they slithered closer and closer until they were upon her. Upon her flesh; slithering, suckering, wrapping around her limbs. The hem of Maude’s nightgown was lifted as they searched with an urgency that made her head swim as she lay there, paralysed with fear. She could do nothing, her muscles were frozen in place and a scream caught in her throat as the writhing tentacles gripped a lock of her thick hair and dragged her head backwards. Her heart beat fast and furious within her heaving chest, her body was set to tingling from head to foot and spots appeared in the corners of her eyes, as unconsciousness threatened to take hold. Still the inklings sought their destination, a place where the light of Maude’s God refused to shine.

There was a ripping then, a tearing away of everything, all she had ever held as part of herself. The panic and arousal that had arisen in the girl snapped and spread out before her; as far as she could see, was an arid desert – desolate, windswept and scorched. Serpents meandered towards their lairs. She found herself then upon a forgotten and forsaken shore, a seething tumultuous sky pressing down upon her in vision. One after the other these landscapes surrounded her and passed through her. As her mind journeyed forth, it was as if she were walking into space, a place beyond all known universes, a place unfathomable to the human mind. Maude felt the growing pull towards the dark matter mirror, in which the broken howling stars reside, the edge of the abyss where all is destroyed and created, at the same time, for all of eternally. Unable to fight its irresistible gravity, Maude took a step forward…

…She awoke, sweating, shaking and calling out wildly “Ia! Ia! Shub-Niggurath!” in an unknown language, caught in the throes of the little death; the covers curling and wrapped tight around her silken thighs, her ankles, her wrists. As sanity returned to her she struggled against them, unwrapping her now naked form, and leapt from the bed. Her rosary glistened in the light of her dying candle, clear across the other side of her empty room. The shadows were silent.

“I cannot give the reasons
I only sing the tunes
The sadness of the seasons
The madness of the moons.”

Mervyn Peake

Part 2 to follow shortly…

Text: Sarah-Jayne Farrer
Minor Editing: Matt Baldwin-Ives

Shub-Niggurath: Cobweb – Eolith Designs

Diary of a Mother: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross

Shub-Niggurath: Rayvn Navarro, aka Sidhe Rose Graphics (SRG) – Rayvn’s Facebook Page
You can also find Sidhe Rose Graphics (SRG) products on Yur Digital (sidherose)

Blasphemous Shrines: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross

Tress of Unreason: Matt Baldwin-Ives – Miles Cross