What's the end game of late-stage capitalism? What provisions are The Powers That Be making for the Coming Collapse; for Climate Chaos and other Catastrophes? This is the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. In this series we'll see how they plan on making their getaway, and how we can work to steal the future back.

The story so far: In the first post of this series we took a ride on the Hyperloop, and talked about the philosophies of the California Ideology and SMI2LE, then began to sketch out the ideas of the Breakaway Civilisation, the Shadow State and the Secret Space Program.

In this post we'll get up close with the Coming Collapse; examining the interrelation between Plague and Progress, both metaphorically and literally.

The language we're constructing to describe the wider view of reality we're developing in this series will increase in scope.

We'll make specific readings of some films and TV shows to illustrate some key variations of the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. By comparing and contrasting them, we'll begin to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these plans, furthering our understanding of how they unfold (and thus how we might subvert them and steal our future back).

Just like the previous post, in the following we'll largely draw from the fictional universes of Tomorrowland and Kingsman: The Secret Service. This time we'll also dip into my previous analysis of Fortitude. Elysium gets a bit of a mention, too. As does Moonraker.


Our unofficial spokesperson for the Breakaway Civilisation, Elon Musk, will drop by again, to announce the arrival of another piece of science-fictional technology. We'll look at its incredible potential: to help the Elite flee a broken world, or let us build a more resilient civilisation. In this way we'll illustrate the differences and similarities between Infrastructure for the Apocalypse and Infrastructure for Building Through the Collapse.

Up Close With The Coming Collapse: Plague & Progress

If you've read this far, you're not allergic to spoilers. There was a high dosage of them in Part 1, after all. So as we proceed in our discussion of the Plutocratic Exit Strategy we'll increase our exposure to them to near toxic levels, as we reveal and analyse most of the key plot points of the two films that we've been using to expand the grammar we're building to describe the post-cyberpunk condition. Building up a language enabling a richer discussion of the technological transfer currently under way, that would appear to be originating fully-formed from the various mythic, science-fictional realms we've identified.

The key question that always remains is this: Who will be on the receiving end of such almost technomagical objects? And what will they build with these wonders?

As we keenly examine the narrative engines of these fictions - deconstructing their workings in detail - we'll become able to draw in other, related explorations of these issues and put them together to see both how the whole thing operates, and more crucially, where it breaks down or malfunctions.

As this series progresses we'll see that Elon Musk's ... Read More »

Fire in the Sky: The Inside Story (An Exclusive Excerpt from Silver Screen Saucers)

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If you're into UFOs and alien abductions, chances are that in 1993 you rushed to your nearest multiplex to watch Fire in the Sky, the Hollywood movie based on Travis Walton's homonymous book.

Chances also are, that nearing the end of it you felt an overpowering compulsion to throw your bag of popcorn on to the screen, and yell "THAT'S NOT HOW IT HAPPENED!" as you stormed out of the theater --or were escorted out in handcuffs. Fact is, Fire in the Sky is paradoxical in being the best AND worst cinematic depiction of the alien abduction phenomenon in a major motion picture.

In an exclusive excerpt from his book Silver Screen Saucers [Amazon US & UK], film researcher and author Robbie Graham shares with us the inside story of what really happened during the arduous journey to bring Fire in the Sky to the big screen; a movie studios rejected from the get-go, because they couldn't understand it or place it in the usual Sci-Fi box where they put all aliens and space monsters.

In a way, Hollywood's repudiation of abductions is but a symptom of how our society at large still hasn't found a way to tackle with this confounding phenomena, even 4 decades after Travis Walton suffered his amazing experience in a snowy Arizonian woods. Which is why Robbie's work is so important for the people inside and outside of the UFOlogy field.








Screenwriter reveals why that infamous abduction scene was so creatively distorted…

1993 saw the release of Fire in the Sky – Hollywood’s take on the famous Travis Walton UFO abduction case of 1975, in which the Arizona logger claimed to have been taken aboard a flying saucer and later into an expansive spaceport, and to have interacted with two different species of aliens – the now archetypal ‘Grays’ (or a variant of them), and attractive human-looking beings (commonly known in UFOlogy as ‘Nordics’). What distinguishes Walton’s story from innumerable other accounts of cosmic kidnapping is that his apparent abduction was witnessed in part by the six other men on his logging crew. They sped back into town that night to inform bemused authorities of how a UFO had zapped Travis in front of their very eyes. Assuming he was dead, the terrified loggers had left their colleague where he lay, the saucer looming above his lifeless body.

A swirling storm of confusion, anger, and allegations was soon to descend on the sleepy town of Snowflake. The loggers, having reported to police that their friend had been



What's the end game of late-stage capitalism? What provisions are The Powers That Be making for the Coming Collapse; for Climate Chaos and other Catastrophes? This is the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. In this series we'll see how they plan on making their getaway, and how we can work to steal the future back.

We start this series of posts by looking at the arrival of the Hyperloop; the latest piece of science fictional technology to be delivered to us - as if plucked from the future readymade - by that great prophet of the Myth of Progress: "the real world Tony Stark" himself, Elon Musk.

We'll hop aboard the "fifth mode of transport" to examine the California Ideology so prevalent in Silicon Valley today and visit Tim Leary & Co's idea of SMI2LE. Then we'll head into the shadow realms, to penetrate the secret world of Classified Technology, and the mythology that surrounds it.

Our ultimate destination is to come to an understanding of how these two different aspects of the world we live in are being actively merged to a create an almost unimaginable life for the privileged few that will be admitted to it, and the price the rest of us will bear to achieve it.

Between a near-future of vast private infrastructure - of fusion power and off-world colonies - and a world full of hyperconnected refugees fleeing war & climate chaos.

Our mission is to build up a vocabulary for discussing these extraordinary conditions, as we teeter ever more precariously on the knife edge between Dystopia and Utopia. To do this we'll have to undertake a wider than usual survey of pop culture; from the land of sci-fi and spy-fi into the murkier waters of conspiracy theory and ufology and back out again, into reality with our heads made bigger and eyes widened ready for the task ahead.

The opening parts of this series are framed largely through the fictional universes of two films: Tomorrowland and Kingsman: The Secret Service, with a little help from the comic books of Jonathan Hickman. SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL THREE.

A ride on the Hyperloop from the Shadow State to the Breakaway Civilisation.

Hyperloop Technologies, Inc., is the world’s next breakthrough in transportation, engineering unique transportation solutions worldwide for both cargo and passengers. The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, California. For more information, please visit

Here's some of the hyperbole they bust out in the launch video; a near complete transcript of sound bites:

  • A chance to change the world. To change the future.
  • From Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30mins.
  • It's going to bring the world closer together.
  • Live anywhere. Work anywhere.

Unless you've been living in a cave - or boring tunnels for an unknown corporation - you'll be well aware that Hyperloop is another of Elon Musk's grand inventions for improving the planet. Unlike the Tesla electric car or powerwall, the SpaceX rocket or whatever else Musk has dreamt up since, this is one idea he is just giving away.

More than that, he's actively encouraging other companies to develop the technology, sponsoring a competition in the same vein as the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge and the X-Prize (a non-profit that Elon sits on the board of) - reminding the world: "Neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies." But the founder of the X-Prize, Peter Diamandis, is one of the backers behind Hyperloop Technologies.

And so it has begun... HYPERLOOP IS HERE!

But where, exactly, has it come from? It can best be thought of as sharing aspects of two different places, two different dimensions of reality. The second, we can think of as Spook Country. The first, is - as our friend Red Pill Junkie described it elsewhere - a Disneyfied Breakaway Civilization (we'll come back to that phrase shortly).

Tomorrowland: The Future That Got Away

This is the vision the young hero of Tomorrowland, Casey Newton, gets when she holds her pin that serves as an invitation to go there; it's all very Field of Dreams - "if you build it, they will come" could be another tagline for the film. It's just that everyone else seems to have stopped trying. To her alone is extended the last 'golden ticket' to visit an alternate dimension where the future can be built, unbridled by messy things like government restrictions. Where the Precautionary Principle is left behind. This is the secret homeland of the Myth of Progress.

As this trailer for the film shows, the pitch is that it's all about recruiting people - dreamers, high achievers - who want to ... Read More »

The Shadows of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mirror


Mirrors are powerful objects to humans. From John Dee's scrying mirror, the metaphor of a black mirror popularized by the eponymous television show, and admonitions to cover a mirror under many circumstances, like the Jewish shiva or superstition.

Take Bloody Mary. There are many interpretations of this legend, but here's what I learned as a kid. At midnight, stand in darkened room facing a mirror and chant "Bloody Mary" three times. She'll appear in the reflection and bad things will happen. Fortunately, the worst that happened to me was scaring the shit out of my seven year old self. According to Wikipedia, Bloody Mary shows young girls if they will marry or if they will die.

Opie and Tatem's indispensable A Dictionary Of Superstitions expresses a measure of caution with looking glasses:

In the chamber of death .. a dread is felt of some spiritual being imaging himself forth in the blank surface of the mirror .. I suspect that the true reason for shrouding the looking-glass .. is that given me in Warwickshire, that if you look into the mirror in the death-chamber, you will see the corpse looking over your shoulder.

What are we seeing if nothing paranormal is afoot?

The obvious, and unexpected, answer is "ourselves".

A recent study with the catchy name "Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing" by Giovanni Caputo, late of the University of Urbino, reveals people who stare at other people for extended periods begin to hallucinate. Chitra Ramaswamy at The Guardian notes, "90% hallucinated a deformed face, 75% saw a monster, 50% said their partner’s face morphed into their own and 15% saw a relative’s face."

julian jaynes sketch of the human brain

The latter two statistics are intriguing, where faces became more familiar and familial. Ancient burial practices focused on imparting immortality upon the deceased. Neolithic plastered human skulls and ancient Egypt's ushabti are physical representations of the deceased, reminding our forebears of the deceased's wisdom and, likely, manifesting as visual and/or auditory hallucinations. These artifacts are part of the archaeological underpinnings of Julian Jaynes's compellingly controversial theory of the bicameral mind: that before humans became properly conscious, our actions were guided by the voices of ancestors and gods originating from our brain's right hemisphere.

Jaynes's description of consciousness, in relation to memory, proposes what people believe to be rote recollection are concepts, the platonic ideals of their office, the view out of the window, et al. These contribute to one's mental sense of place and position in the world. The memories enabling one to see themselves in the third person.

Bringing us back to Bloody Mary and Giovanni Caputo.

People staring at themselves in the mirror are looking at a different self, the unconscious visible in the conscious body. After ten minutes of eye contact humans apprehend their other half, kept in check by the rational left hemisphere. These hallucinations may communicate the subconscious's instincts and reactions kept silent during waking life. Wisdom formerly ascribed to archaic gods and the dead.

Do you trust yourself enough to give it a shot?

Dreaming While Awake


by Mike Jay

(excerpted from Darklore Volume 8, available from Amazon US and Amazon UK)

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In February 1758 the 90-year-old Charles Lullin, a retired Swiss civil servant whose sight had been progressively failing since a cataract operation five years before, began to see considerably more than he had become accustomed to. For the next several months he was visited in his apartment by a silent procession of figures, invisible to everyone but him: young men in magnificent cloaks, perfectly coiffured ladies carrying boxes on their heads, girls dancing in silks and ribbons. These visions were recorded and published in 1760 by his grandson, the naturalist Charles Bonnet, after whom the syndrome of hallucinations in the elderly and partially sighted would much later be named.

This celebrated case is one of the founding studies in the science of hallucinations, and frames the subject in distinctive ways. Most significantly, it has no link with mental illness: Lullin’s eyesight may have dimmed but his cognitive faculties were perfectly sharp, and he had no difficulty recognising his hallucinations as unreal. His experience was clearly different in kind from those experienced in psychoses such as schizophrenia: rather, it highlights the remarkable range of organic conditions, from neurological disorders to drug effects, of ‘hallucinations in the sane’.

Much has been learned in the intervening century about the brain states and optical processes that lie behind such experiences, but the old question remains: what, if anything, do such hallucinations have to tell us? They cannot be dismissed as symptoms of insanity, and nor are they purely random sensory data: on the contrary, their content is curiously consistent. Miniature people, for example, are a common sight for those with Charles Bonnet syndrome: Oliver Sacks recalls a patient who was accompanied for a couple of weeks by ‘little people a few inches high, like elves or fairies, with little green caps, climbing up the sides of her wheelchair’ 1. These little folk are also witnessed in many other circumstances: by sufferers from migraine, epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease, those on mind-altering drugs such as DMT (dimethyltryptamine) or magic mushrooms, or in withdrawal from alcohol or sedatives. These are wildly different causes, but the miniature people they generate are strikingly similar. They share many curious but consistent qualities: a tendency to appear in groups, for example, or arrayed in phalanxes (‘numerosity’), to wear headgear or exotic dress, and to go about their business autonomously, paying no attention to the subject’s attempts to interact with them. Who are these little people? Do they have a message for us? And if not, what is the meaning of ... Read More »

The Looming Robot Revolution

Above you'll find a fascinating one hour overview of the current state-of-the-art of robotics technology, with some of the world leaders in this endeavour giving five minute summaries of their work, then sitting down to discuss the issues involved.


  • Russ Tedrake - Director, Center for Robotics, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab
  • Sangbae Kim - MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab
  • Mick Mountz - Founder, Kiva Systems
  • Gill Pratt - Program Manager, DARPA Robotics Challenge, DARPA Defense Sciences
  • Marc Raibert - Founder, Boston Dynamics
  • Radhika Nagpal - Self-organizing Systems Research and Robotics Group, Harvard University
  • That by itself is meaty enough. But why stop there, when we can take a closer look at the specifics of these projects? Step through them all, examining to what degree they're driving us towards utopia or oblivion; or both at the same time. Pausing occasionally to take a look at related issues during our journey across the robotic landscape of the present and near-future.

    We start then with the latest video of MIT's Cheetah, in full, showing off its LIDAR vision upgrades that enable it to quickly identify and jump over obstacles:

    And here we have the Chinese clone of Boston Dynamics' Big Dog:

    Robotics technology has reached the point now where we are rapidly progressing beyond our simple mechanistic visions to far more complex horizons, and using nature as a guidebook to travel there. That is the essence of biomimicry, and Sangbae Kim's talk in particular demonstrates that pathway.

    As has been the case with so much of technological progress, the principle sponsors and early adaptors are military. They have the big funding grants, and the long term vision.

    Here's your literal metaphor for the relationship between technology and war made 'flesh': Cujo - a robotic "pack mule" that automatically follows wherever this

Review: Ex Machina

Caleb, Ava and Nathan from Ex Machina

One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.

The future reality of artificial intelligence seemed to edge a little closer this week with the news that Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak - along with 1000 researchers - had put their name to an open letter calling for a ban on AI in robotic warfare systems. Meanwhile, in TV and movies we’ve seen an influx of AI-themed stories such as Person of Interest, Her, the upcoming Westworld, and now the science fiction film Ex Machina.

In Ex Machina, we join Caleb, a young coder at a Google-like search engine company (‘Bluebook’) as he finds out that he has won a competition to spend a week with the genius CEO of the company, Nathan (who wrote the company’s search algorithm as a 13-year-old wunderkind). On arriving at the reclusive CEO's sprawling, wilderness estate, Caleb discovers that he has been recruited to test perhaps the greatest technological development of all time: the creation of an artificial intelligence, embodied in a humanoid robot named Ava.

If you’ve created a conscious machine it’s not the history of man… that’s the history of Gods.

However, as the week progresses Caleb finds himself to be as much of a test subject as Ava, as he is watched on closed circuit monitors while interacting with this non-human intelligence - and as Nathan’s darker side emerges, Caleb is left wondering how much of what he is experiencing is manipulation, and how much is the truth.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, author of The Beach and the pen behind the movie scripts for the apocalyptic sci-fi movies 28 Days Later and Sunshine, Ex Machina is a wonderful meditation on one of the great philosophical questions: what is consciousness/self-awareness, and are we even capable of judging it in anyone but ourselves (in Descartes words, ‘I think, therefore I am’, as the limit of our knowledge on consciousness). As such a couple of thought experiments related to consciousness are mentioned during the movie, such as the Turing Test, and the Knowledge Argument, aka ‘Mary in the Black and White Room’ - this latter in particular almost serves as a template for the script itself.

Here's the trailer:

The very small cast (basically just 4 actors, only 3 of whom have speaking roles - Caleb, Nathan and Ava) and one location may have been partly decided upon for budgeting reasons (though the elegant design and special effects certainly weren’t skimped on), but in truth these elements provide the power of Ex Machina, enhancing the feeling of close personal interaction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ intelligence, and also projecting the feeling of imprisonment upon the viewer themselves.

Because as much as Ex Machina is about what it is to be a conscious being, the storyline goes a level deeper to ask what it is to have ‘free will’, but be subjugated. And whether Garland meant it to or not, the film riffs on overarching themes of male dominance and women as objects: ‘artificial’ beings created by a male ‘god’, kept imprisoned and repressed, and used for sexual gratification (although to be fair, Nathan notes that in adding a vagina to a robot, he also added ‘pleasure circuits’ for the artificial consciousness to experience).

Another key question raised by Ex Machina is one which we may have to answer fairly soon: at what point does an AI transition from being an object - a piece of technology - to being an entity, with associated rights. Nathan is most certainly an asshole, but from one point of view (AI as a technological object) all he is doing is modifying and upgrading machines.

From the other point of view (AI as an autonomous consciousness deserving of its own rights) he is basically exploiting and, to an extent, ‘killing off’ conscious entities. It was quite interesting (and shocking) to me how easily I abandoned any human ‘allegiance’ while watching this film, and sided with the machine intelligence - to the extent that I was happily expecting a crime to be committed against a technology genius, for the ‘crime’ of upgrading his machines.

The movie certainly doesn’t break a lot of new ground, with its roots in the archetypal Frankenstein story. Ava at times seems a century-old echo of Maria from Metropolis, and any fan of Bladerunner will probably also see similarities to both the physicality of ’pleasure-model’ Pris and the elegant intelligence of Rachael throughout Ex Machina. And when Caleb gets so far down the rabbit-hole that he starts wondering if he also is a robot - with implanted memories, fooled into believing he is human - we cannot help but see some of Deckard. (Even Nathan’s use of the massive data behind search engine queries as the basis for creating the machine-intelligence of Ava was foreshadowed by the TV show Person of Interest.)

Ex Machina - Caleb checks to see if he is a robot

Where Ex Machina hits the mark is in the afore-mentioned personal (and at times, claustrophobic) nature of the film, ably assisted by a fantastic ambient soundtrack (co-created by former Portishead member Geoff Barrow ). Garland’s debut in the directing chair is an impressive one, subtly keeping the viewer in close contact with the actors’ thoughts, often through facial expression alone, as well as capable of creating some highly memorable moments (one surreal dance scene could be straight out of a Kubrick movie...see below). Ex Machina is a slow burn, which is perfect for an exploration of what it is to be ‘human’ - but if you like ‘splodey action stuff, this movie may not be for you. If you’re a deep thinker about consciousness and artificial intelligence, you’ll likely love it.

Garland doesn’t dumb things down, showing good taste in the exposition and putting his trust in the intelligence of viewers. For example, at one point where Nathan is lying, in your head you know Ava has analysed his micro gestures and knows he is lying, but a less confident film-maker might have had her explicitly say “Lie” (the way in which she responsed to half-truths earlier in the film when interacting with Caleb). Instead, Garland just has her give a little half-smile, and the viewer knows what this means.

Nathan too, while quite obviously the antagonist of the story, is still fleshed out as a real person rather than a cartoon villain....we're intrigued by him and what makes him tick beneath that dominating, alpha-male geek persona. His heavy drinking perhaps may be a clue that the things he is doing are having an impact on his soul.

The only part of the film where I noticed overt exposition was when Nathan asked Caleb to tell him what the Turing Test means - but this was probably a key enough point to warrant it, and it was done smoothly (Nathan doesn’t need to be educated; he asks Caleb to be sure Caleb understands).

Ex Machina is superbly cast, with top-shelf performances from the few actors involved: Oscar Isaac embodies the intellectually superior, alpha-male tech-bro Nathan, while Domhnall Gleeson's Caleb portrays the flipside - a compassionate, deep thinker, with an inner strength. Sonoya Mizuno was given a tough job with the line-less Kyoko, but does an excellent job in mixing subservience with her sporadic threatening coldness. And Alicia Vikander is stunning as Ava - the perfect match of a new AI's fierce intelligence mixed with a newborn innocence, brought to life with nice subtle touches through her movements and speech patterns to only *just* give the slightest hint that the character is something other than human.

There may be some who will argue that certain elements of the plot reinforce negative tropes concerning both women and artificial intelligence. This may be a warranted to an extent - however, to go in the opposite direction at these times may well have stereotyped women and AI even more so. Sometimes you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Overall Ex Machina is a beautifully designed, shot and acted film, on a fascinating topic that is certainly in the spotlight at this point in history. Highly recommended.

(Apologies for the vagueness throughout the review - just trying to avoid spoilers. Would very much enjoy a discussion of some of the details of the film in the comments section though)

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The Ancient Mountain of Light

This week the Nature website featured a commentary from Indonesian science journalist Dyna Rochmyaningsih, warning that nationalism, rather than science, may be driving some recent projects in her homeland. One of the projects she mentions is the archaeological work being done at Gunung Padang, with some alleged discoveries that would make Indonesia home to Earth’s oldest discovered civilization (possibly 25,000 years old).

Gunung Padang seems likely to feature in alternative historian Graham Hancock's upcoming book Magicians of the Gods, which will certainly bring these claims to a much wider audience in the West - though we have been discussing it here on the Daily Grail for two years now. In last year's release of our anthology Darklore, Martin J. Clemens wrote an article on the Gunung Padang discovery, and at that time he too warned that "some Indonesian leaders want to establish their country as the birthplace of Asian culture, and they tend to seek out storylines that confirm that bias."

Given the commentary in Nature, I thought it would be worth reproducing Martin's essay in full here at the Grail (excerpted from Darklore Volume 8)


Gunung Padang (Creative Commons, Mohammad Fadli)

The Ancient Mountain of Light

by Martin J. Clemens

In the science world, much of the research is inaccessible to the layman. If the concepts being studied aren’t orders of magnitude over the heads of the general public, then the means to participate are just not available, whether due to cost or physical location. There are exceptions, however, such as astronomy. In fact, amateur astronomers have been integral to progress in the field, and professional scientists welcome their input, often using their backyard observations as a starting point in the process of discovering some of the most interesting objects and events in the night sky.

Archaeology is sometimes thought of in those same terms, though that really depends on who you ask. Archaeology is the study of human activity in the past, through observation and analysis of the effects of material culture. Essentially, that means that archaeologists look at artefacts and locations and try to determine what those items mean within the context of the particular culture in question. It can be a difficult process, and it requires those who undertake it to be well-read in the humanities, and to have a background in the physical sciences. They must be experts on history, and be conversant in psychology, biology and sometimes physics. But these things aren’t exclusive to archaeologists. Anyone can be well-read on the humanities. Many laymen are experts on history and are conversant in biology and physics. And since almost every archaeological find is ultimately dependent on subjective interpretation, it would seem that the field is more open than some would like to think.

The products of archaeology are not the artefacts and ancient buildings that they study; the product is the information gleaned from those items. The dusty trinkets and buried structures are the tools archaeologists use to measure the impact lost cultures had on their environment, and on the members of their societies. The problem arises when that story, or stories as the case may be, don’t readily betray the secrets of their originators. Even among the so-called experts, agreement is hard to come by, and when those who look in on the golden circle from the outside get into the fray, things can get messy.

In the world of archaeology, there are some basic truths that form the foundation of the study. One of those truths is the general anthropological timeline, which outlines not only the progression of human development, from the early emergence out of Africa, to our spread throughout Asia and Europe and eventually Australia and the Americas. Other foundational elements include the individual demographics and histories of all of the various civilizations that existed between then and now. But that timeline is only a truth in so far as the majority believe it to be…and there are other voices in the crowd.

It has generally been thought that our ancestors began building monuments and structures for ritual purposes at a specific time in our history. That time is roughly 9000 years ago, or in the 7th millennium BCE. The prevailing wisdom of archaeology says that disparate cultures across Europe and Asia began developing the skills necessary to construct long lasting works of art and primitive architecture using stone as a medium around this time. There were probably many failed starts and half-developed projects that never saw the light of day, but of the examples we know about, the oldest are apparently no older than about 7000 years, indicating that it took roughly 2000 years to hone our skills. By about 5000 years ago, we were building sophisticated structures like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, and thus our progression from primitive hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian societies with the time and wherewithal to develop a culture of our own was well underway.

One important aspect of the above, is the implied idea that these skills were developed independently by different cultures. Each culture, we’re told, invented, practised and perfected their techniques on their own, with little to no help from other peoples. This is the accepted wisdom.

There are elements of the archaeological record that would seem to disagree however. One of those elements is a megalithic/Neolithic site in the ... Read More »

Strange & Norrell : V - The Raven King


Susanna Clarke's 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series by Peter Harness, recently finished on BBC One and currently airing on BBC America. John Reppion plucks out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and takes a closer look at them.

All posts in this series:

V - The Raven King

Strange & Norrell (the novel) is divided into three volumes: the first is Mr. Norrell, the second Jonathan Strange, and the third is entitled John Uskglass. In the novel, The History and Practice of English Magic is a book written by Jonathan Strange and published in 1816 by John Murray. The third volume of Strange & Norrell opens with Strange's prologue to his book which is a summation of what is known of John Uskglass - the magician they called the Raven King.

In the last months of 1110 a strange army appeared in Northern England. It was first heard of near a place called Penlaw some twenty or thirty miles north-west of Newcastle. No one could say where it had come from –it was generally supposed to be an invasion of Scots or Danes or perhaps even of French.

By early December the army had taken Newcastle and Durham and was riding west. It came to Allendale, a small stone settlement that stands high among the hills of Northumbria, and camped one night on the edge of a moor outside the town.

The farming people of Allendale (a real and extant village in Northumberland, settled since prehistoric times - known today for its flaming tar barrel hurling New Year's celebrations), anxious to befriend the army, sent a party of young beautiful women ("a company of brave Judiths") to make contact, and peace, with the force. There on the moor the women found a host of curious looking soldiers, wrapped in black cloaks, lying on the ground looking like corpses, with ravens roosting on and around them. One soldier stood up and one brave Allendale woman stepped forward to kiss him. They kissed, and kissed, and then they danced, and danced.

This went on for some time until she became heated with the dance and paused for a moment to take off her cloak. Then her companions saw that drops of blood, like beads of sweat, were forming on her arms, face and legs, and falling on to the snow. This sight terrified them and so they ran away. The strange army never entered Allendale. It rode on in the night towards Carlisle. The next day the townspeople went cautiously up to the fields where the army had camped. There they found the girl, her body entirely white and drained of blood while the snow around her was stained bright red.

By these signs they recognized the Daoine Sidhe –the Fairy Host.

The fairy army fought many battles and won them all. By late December hey held Newcastle, Durham, Carlisle, Lancaster (which was burnt to the ground), and were at York. In January the fae army met that of King Henry I at Newark on the banks of the River Trent. The King lost.

The King and his counsellors waited for some chieftain or king to step forward.

The ranks of the Daoine Sidhe parted and someone appeared. He was rather less than fifteen years old. Like the Daoine Sidhe he was dressed in ragged clothes of coarse black wool. Like them his dark hair was long and straight.

He was pale and handsome and solemn-faced, yet it was clear to everyone present that he was human, not fairy.

King Henry asked the boy his name.

The boy replied that he had none.*

King Henry asked him why he made war on England.

The boy said that he was the only surviving member of an aristocratic Norman family who had been granted lands in the north of England by King Henry's father, William the Conqueror. The men of the family had been deprived of their lands and their lives by a wicked enemy named Hubert de Cotentin. The boy said that some years before his father had appealed to William II (King Henry's brother and predecessor) for justice, but had received none. Shortly afterwards his father had been murdered. The boy said that he himself had been taken by Hubert's men while still a baby and abandoned in the forest. But the Daoine Sidhe had found him and taken him to live with them in Faerie. Now he had returned.

He had settled it in his own mind that the stretch of England which lay between the Tweed and the Trent was a just recompense for the failure of the Norman kings to avenge the murders of his family. For this reason and no other King Henry was suffered to retain the southern half of his kingdom.

That day he began his unbroken reign of more than three hundred years.

In a 2004 interview with BBC Nottingham Susanna Clarke was asked whether her master magician, the Raven King, was based upon any historical figure.

The Raven King had an odd genesis. Ursula Le Guin has a magician in the Earthsea trilogy who has no name: the Grey Mage of Plan, whose magic was so dubious, his name was forgotten. And there’s a magician in The Lord of the Rings, right at the very end, who comes out of Mordor to do battle against our heroes, and no one knows his name because he himself has forgotten it. I thought this was rather cool, and when I was developing my magicians, I wanted one without a name. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite understood what would happen if I had a major character without a name. The consequence has been that he has acquired more names than most people: the Raven King, John Uskglass, the Black King, the King of the North and a fairy name that no one can pronounce. [1]

While the initial seeds of Clarke's John Uskglass may have been literary, the Raven King's roots stretch deep into the fertile soil of English history and folklore.

Puck is a name we are most familiar with today from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - that "shrewd and knavish sprite", "that merry wanderer of the night", and entertainer of Oberon, the fairy king. Puck pre-dates the Bard by a long way however.

Parallel words exist in many ancient languages - puca in Old English, puki in Old Norse, puke in Swedish, puge in Danish, puks in Low German, pukis in Latvia and Lithuania -- mostly with the original meaning of a demon, devil or evil and malignant spirit. [2]

When not being applied generally to household sprites (the kind that helped with chores in exchange for an offering of food and/or drink which was left by the hearth for them), Puck is then the name of one particular fae who also uses the alias Robin/Robyn Goodfellow. This fairy was portrayed in a 1785 painting by William Blake in which he resembles the Greek God Pan, and an 1841 painting by Richard Dadd as a human-looking child. [3] Post his role in Shakespeare's play, Puck/Robyn found himself the subject of many 17th century ballads in which he was often portrayed as the son of Oberon and an English woman. [4] A creature of several names then, and neither wholly human nor fairy.

Writing as Strange upon Uskglass, Clarke gives us:

The boy said that he was already a king in Faerie. He named the fairy king who was his overlord. No one understood.

The accompanying footnote reads:

The name of this Daoine Sidhe King was particularly long and difficult. Traditionally he has always been known as Oberon.

A connection to Oberon, as (foster) father hinted at, at least.

In chapter one of her 1933 work The God of Witches, entitled "The Horned God", Dr. Margaret Murray wrote the following:

The most interesting of all the names for the god is Robin, which when given to Puck is Robin Goodfellow. It is so common a term for the "Devil" as to be almost a generic name for him "Some Robin the Divell, or I wot not what spirit of the Ayre". Dame Alice Kyteler called her god, Robin Artisson, and the Somerset witches cried out "Robin" when summoning their Grandmaster to a meeting, or even when about to make a private incantation. [5]

While Murray's writings are viewed by many as rather fanciful these days there is, nonetheless, value in her cataloguing of these matters and, I would also argue, in her interpretation of things (even if she did get a little carried away at times). She goes on:

A fact, noted by many writers and still unexplained, is the connection between Robin Goodfellow and Robin Hood. Grimm remarks on it but gives no reason for his opinion, though the evidence shows that the connection is there. The cult of Robin Hood was widespread both geographically and in time, which suggests that he was more than a local hero in the places where his legend occurs, In Scotland as well as England Robin Hood was well known, and he belonged essentially to the people, not to the nobles. [6]

In his 1895 essay The Devil and His Imps: An Etymological Inquisition, Charles P. G. Scot wrote briefly upon the connections and confusions between Hood and Goodfellow:

Robin Hood seems to have been sometimes confused in kitchen tales with Robin Good-fellow, and so to have been regarded in the light of a fairy -or in the dark of a goblin. Reginald Scot, speaking of Hudgin, a German goblin, says:


There goe as manie tales upon this Hudgin, in some parts of Germanie, as there did in England of Robin Good-fellow. But this Hudgin was so called, bicaufe he alwaies ware a cap or a hood; and therefore I thinke it was Robin Hood.

1584 R. SCOT, Discourse upon divels and spirits, ch. 2I (app. to Discoverie of witchcraft, repr. I886, p. 438; ed. i65I, p. 374).


Keightly, no conclusive authority, mentions Robin Hood as an other name for Puck or Robin Goodfellow:
Puck . . . his various appellations: these are Puck, Robin Goodfellow, Robin Hood, Hobgoblin.

1828 T. K[EIGHTLEY], Fairy mythology, 2: i 8. [7]

The oldest surviving document mentioning Robin/Robyn/Robe Hood (also Hod, Hode, Whood, Wood, and so on) is a 14th century poem entitled The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman which alludes fleetingly to the "rhymes of Robin Hood" - therefore suggesting that the tales were already well told and known. The real Robin Hood (if there ever was one) is long obscured by the hundreds, if not thousands, of tellings, re-tellings, and re-imaginings of his life and deeds which continue to entertain into the present day. There are at least three sites in England which claim to be the outlaw's final resting place and though Sherwood, Nottingham is the location most of us automatically associate with Robin, many historians now believe that Yorkshire was his (or his tale's) place of origin.

Robin [Hood] has been presented as a personification of the Green Man (he was always dressed in Lincoln Green), a folk character with fairy origins, a political rebel, and even a Witch-Cult figure. [8]

Though a yeoman in the earliest ballads, the idea of Robin Hood being the rightful Earl of Huntingdon, robbed of his title by scheming family members who abandoned him as an infant, goes back to the late 16th century at least. Robin is supposed then to have been raised by Gilbert Whitehand (a now largely overlooked member of the Merry Men), and schooled by him in the ways of the bow and the staff. In later versions Robin it is said to have quarrelled with the king (almost always King John by this point, though an unspecific Edward in the original tales) and was forced to flee north, taking refuge in Sherwood Forest. [9]

Compare this with Strange's account of John d'Uskglass' origins: the entitled noble, abandoned as a child, raised and schooled so well he bettered his master, living in the north while the true king remains in the south. (I could go on, bringing in other sources but for the constraints of time and word-count).

I am not suggesting that Susanna Clarke meant in any way to deliberately base The Raven King upon Robin Hood or Robyn Goodfellow, merely that such figures - complex, elusive, many-named, trickster-ish , champions of "otherness" who live and operate outside the normal rules and constraints of society - are now and always have been part of the English psyche.

Robin Hood is a greatly sanitised version of the archetype, the Raven King a darker, more alien, and dangerous one. Lincoln Green and Raven Black.

There is, of course, also the shared avian nomenculture: the Robin and the Raven. The former having recently been voted the National Bird of Britain, the latter not even making the top ten. The Robin is a cheery, plucky bird that reminds us of Christmas and all the Victorian trappings and customs we carry with the season (consciously or not). The raven is a midnight-hued carrion eater with an IQ comparable to that of a primate, long associated with omens, magic and witch-craft. The raven represents the ancient, the untamed, the occult while the robin represents whimsy, nature at it's back-garden level, and the familiar. England may try to maintain its Victorian composure, try to keep up appearances, but in the fields, and on the concrete roofs of blocks of flats, along the motorways, and even in the Tower of London, the ravens watch and wait.

All of Man’s works, all his cities, all his empires, all his monuments will one day crumble to dust. Even the houses of my own dear readers must –though it be for just one day, one hour be ruined and become houses where the stones are mortared with moonlight, windowed with starlight and furnished with the dusty wind. It is said that in that day, in that hour, our houses become the possessions of the Raven King. Though we bewail the end of English magic and say it is long gone from us and inquire of each other how it was possible that we came to lose something so precious, let us not forget that it also waits for us at England's end and one day we will no more be able to escape the Raven King than, in this present Age, we can bring him back. -- The History and Practice of English Magic by Jonathan Strange, pub. John Murray, London, 1816.


*When he was a child in Faerie the Sidhe had called him a word in their own language which, we are told, meant "Starling", but he had already abandoned that name by the time he entered England. Later he took to calling himself by his father's name John d'Uskglass but in the early part of his reign he was known simply by one of the many titles his friends or enemies gave him: the King; the Raven King; the Black King; the King in the North.


[2] Gillian Edwards (1974) Hobgoblin and sweet Puck : fairy names and natures
[3] [4]
[5] [6] Margaret Murray (1933) The God of Witches
[7] Charles P. G. Scott (1895) The Devil and His Imps: An Etymological Inquisition
[8] Marc Alexander (2002) A Companion to the Folklore Myths and Customs of Britain

Strange & Norrell : IV- Magic and Madness


Susanna Clarke's 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series by Peter Harness, currently airing on BBC One and BBC America. John Reppion plucks out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and takes a closer look at them.

All posts in this series:

IV - Magic and Madness

"I am not at all surprised that you could not help His Majesty," said Mr Norrell. "I do not believe that even the Aureate magicians could cure madness. In fact I am not sure that they tried. They seem to have considered madness in quite a different light. They held madmen in a sort of reverence and thought they knew things sane men did not –things which might be useful to a magician. There are stories of both Ralph Stokesey and Catherine of Winchester consulting with madmen."

"But it was not only magicians, surely?" said Strange. "Fairies too had a strong interest in madmen. I am sure I remember reading that somewhere."

"Yes, indeed! Some of our most important writers have remarked upon the strong resemblance between madmen and fairies. Both are well known for talking without sense or connexion."

Talking without (seeming) sense or connection, in the world of Strange & Norrell, is one effect of what is referred to only as a "muffling spell" - an enchantment signified by a phantom rose at the mouth of the subject (to those magically inclined enough to see it). The apparent nonsense spoken by those thus enchanted in the book and television series proves, in fact, to be old Fairy and Folk Tales which, though unrelated to what the person is trying to say, are nevertheless coherently told. So it is that those who have had a muffling spell cast upon them may appear insane but not (necessarily) be so. Clearly, this can be read as a metaphor for depression, and any number of mental health conditions in which the sufferer feels unable to articulate their problems, or is unable to imagine them being understood (or taken seriously) if they do so.

Madness and otherness are themes that run throughout Strange & Norrell. In one footnote we are given a note on the thoughts of Richard Chaston (1620-95), an author who the practical magician Mr. Gilbert Norrell agrees with (on this matter, at least):

Chaston wrote that men and Fairies both contain within them a faculty of reason and a faculty of magic. In men reason is strong and magic is weak. With fairies is the other way round: magic comes very naturally to them, but by human standards they are barely sane.

Here then, magic seems to be the very opposite of reason, but does that make it madness?

In Clarke's world fairies and Faerie may seem at first to be the opposite of Englishmen and England but, in fact, (as Chanston hints) they prove to be more like mirror images of the same; their characteristics merely inverted.

Strange & Norrell draws on various Romantic literary traditions and is set during the Romantic Era - an era when England was itself ruled over by "mad" King George III. The self-elected poster-boy of Romanticism Lord Byron was infamously described as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" by Lady Caroline Lamb; a phrase which has become synonymous with hell-raising, raucous, rebellious behaviour ever since. Madness then, was and is an important part of the Romantic aesthetic.

Poets cultivated the association among insanity, eccentricity, and genius in their life-styles and their work to distinguish themselves from the philistine public and from writers of lesser talent. [...] Two general reasons for the prevalence of genuine and feigned madness in this period were the increased acceptability of public displays of emotion and the cult of the genius poet. [1]

Yet while Byron's madness may have been something of an affectation, other poets such as William Blake, and Friedrich Hölderlin did unquestionably struggle with their mental health (the latter almost certainly being schizophrenic). Another was John Clare, the "Peasant Poet" from Northampton, who was in and out of asylums for much of his adult life.

In 1837 he was admitted to Dr Allen’s High Beech asylum near Epping and was reported as being “full of many strange delusions”. He thought he was a prize fighter and that he had two wives, Patty and Mary [a girl Clare fell in love with as a boy but who, in reality, he seems to have never had any actual relationship with]. He started to claim he was Lord Byron. There is an interesting letter that Dr Allen wrote about Clare to The Times in 1840:

It is most singular that ever since he came… the moment he gets pen or pencil in hand he begins to write most poetical effusions. Yet he has never been able to obtain in conversation, nor even in writing prose, the appearance of sanity for two minutes or two lines together, and yet there is no indication of insanity in any of his poetry.

An interesting picture of Clare during [his time at Northampton Asylum circa 1860] comes from the asylum superintendent, Dr Nesbitt, who wrote of his condition:

It was characterised by visionary ideas and hallucinations. For instance he may be said to have lost his own personal identity as with the gravity of truth he would maintain that he had written the works of Byron, and Sir Walter Scott, that he was Nelson and Wellington, that he had fought and won the battle of Waterloo, that he had had his head shot off at this battle, whilst he was totally unable to explain the process by which it had been again affixed to his body. [2]

Clare's own affliction apparently working as the mirror opposite of the muffling spell of Clarke's world - him being able to speak with absolute clarity and mastery through one medium alone. The madman as genius in his single field of specialisation.

In a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2001, Allan Beveridge wrote the following:

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, two major factors contributed to the awakening interest in the art of the insane—the Romantic movement, which identified madness as an exalted state allowing access to hidden realms; and the emergence of the asylum, which provided a location for the production of patient-art. Romanticism saw madness as a privileged condition: the madman, unrestrained by reason or by social convention, was perceived as having access to profound truths. The Romantics emphasized subjectivity and individualism, and hailed the madman as a hero, voyaging to new planes of reality. Although the equation of madness and genius originated with Plato, it was only in the nineteenth century that it became an important feature of cultural discourse. From the proposition that the genius was a kind of madman it was logical to ask whether the mad themselves create works of genius. [3]

The art of the insane, along the art of children, and the "primitive" art of other cultures, were studied and admired by the likes of the Expressionists and the Surrealists. To them such art represented an absolute break from the conventions of western formalism - from the established etiquette and symbolism of art as it stood (just as the wild magic of fairies contrasts with Mr. Norrell's controlled, formalised English Magic). In the first Surrealist Manifesto, André Breton, the leading theorist of the movement, wrote:

The confidences of madmen: I would spend my life in provoking them. They are people of a scrupulous honesty, and whose innocence is equalled only by mine.

A quotation worthy of Lord Byron himself in terms of its apparent pomposity.

One cannot write of magic, madness, fairies, and art and not include the tragic, talented Richard Dadd.

Richard Dadd was born August 1, 1817 in Chatham, Kent, England. At age 13 the family moved to London, and in 1837, Dadd, age 20, was admitted to the Royal Academy of Art. Dadd showed talent at the Academy and gathered a number of painterly friends, known collectively as 'The Clique'. He won several awards while at the Academy, and began exhibiting his work during his first year.

In 1841, he received a commission to do the woodblock illustrations for a book called the Book of British Ballads, as well as an oil painting called Titania Sleeping, which is perhaps the best example of his early work. Overall, his style was not particularly remarkable, no more so than any other moderately gifted painter in Victorian England during the stylistic phase now referred to as "The Fairy School". [4]

In 1842 Richard Dadd set out on the not-yet-quite-out-of-fashion Grand Tour (of Europe and the Middle East) with Sir Thomas Phillips, who had employed the artist to document his travels. All went well until the duo reached Egypt where Phillips and others believed that Dadd must have caught sunstroke. Dadd himself was under a rather different impression however, namely that he had been possessed by the ancient Egyptian God Osiris. Osiris is the God of the afterlife, of the dead, and, perhaps crucially, of the underworld (the connections between Hades, Hell, the classical underworld, and Faerie having already been discussed in part previously).

Upon his return to England Richard was clearly changed and troubled. He was taken by his family to rural Kent for a bit of rest, relaxation, and recuperation. There, in August 1843, Dadd took a knife and murdered his father, who he now believed was not his father at all but a supernatural double (a "fetch", or a "waff", as some might say). Richard fled the country but was arrested just outside Paris when he attempted a second murder, this time with a straight razor. Dadd confessed to killing his father and was returned to England, where he was committed to the criminal department of Bethlem psychiatric hospital, better known to many as Bedlam.

The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke

In Bedlam (and later in the equally infamous Broadmoor Hospital where he died in 1886) Richard Dadd was encouraged to continue with his painting. His artwork was, as is perhaps to be expected, somewhat changed ("possess[ing] a strange compelling quality absent from the work he completed when sane", according to Beveridge[5]) but it was no less wonderful. So wonderful in fact that in 1855 the then Head Steward at Bedlam, George Henry Haydon, asked Dadd if he would paint a picture for him. Dadd spent nine years on the painting - a canvass measuring a mere 54 x 39.5 cm (21 x 15.5 inches) - which, though it remained unfinished in his eyes, now hangs in London's world famous Tate Gallery. The painting (shown above) is entitled The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke and is described on the Tate website thusly:

With the exception of Shakespeare's Oberon and Titania, who appear in the top half of the picture, the figures are drawn entirely from the artist's imagination. The main focus of the painting is the Fairy Feller himself, who raises his axe in readiness to split a large chestnut which will be used to construct Queen Mabs' new fairy carriage. In the centre of the picture the white-bearded patriarch raises his right hand, commanding the woodsman not to strike a blow until the signal is given. Meanwhile the rest of the fairy band looks on in anticipation, anxious to see whether the woodsman will succeed in splitting the nut with one stroke.

The magician-like figure of the patriarch wears a triple crown, which seems to be a reference to the Pope. Dadd saw the Pope during a visit to Rome in 1843 and was apparently overcome by an urge to attack him. Although the patriarch may be interpreted as a father figure, the tiny apothecary, brandishing a mortar and pestle in the top right of the picture, is in fact a portrait of the artist's father, Robert Dadd. [6]

Yes, Dadd's father was depicted by the artist among the fairies.

Dadd's dad put to work in Faerie

In the very first issue of the Tate magazine, Tate Etc, published in May 2004 (four months before Strange & Norrell), the German Capitalist Realist painter and photographer Sigmar Polke (1941–2010) wrote a piece on Dadd's Fairy Feller's Master Stroke entitled "Private View". While I do not pretend to be familiar with Polke, either as a painter or a writer, there are nevertheless perhaps some insights to be gained from an artist's perspective on Dadd and his master-work. Here are a couple of choice quotations from the piece:

I’ve known Richard Dadd’s The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke 1855–64 since the 1970s. When I look at it again today, it’s as if I were looking into a tapestry and losing my way. Its composition is quite unlike any other Victorian fairy painting. The point of view is not clearly defined. Instead, the individual elements appear to be linked by almost invisible forces.

At that time, the fantasy life of fairies – from Grimm to Shakespeare – enjoyed widespread popularity as an imaginary world fully integrated into reality. Dadd’s appropriation of this world is, however, neither kitsch, nor facile, nor garrulous, because it does not obey the then current pictorial conventions. Nor does his vision echo the spirited confections of popular draughtsman J.J. Grandville’s fantastic book Un Autre Monde 1844. Instead, one senses the extraordinary intensity of an enduring dialogue between the artist and the universe of figures that he created. Isolated from the outside world, he painted the picture for the director of the hospital. Did he perhaps want to present it as proof of his sanity?

A strange idea; attempting to prove one's sanity by creating a hyper-realistic representation of Faerie.

In the final paragraph Polke talks briefly about Dadd's madness but in place of a conclusion to the piece there is, instead, a rather curious quotation.

One more curlicue, a whorl, my coda follows in the form of an ancient Celtic saying:

A city lasts three years,
A dog outlives three cities,
A horse outlasts three dogs,
A person outlives three horses,
A donkey outlives three people,
A wild goose outlives three donkeys,
A crow outlives three wild geese,
A hart outlives three crows,
A raven outlives three harts,
And the Phoenix outlives three ravens. [7]

I have not been able to find the source of the quotation and I'm left wondering exactly what Polke was trying to communicate, and whether he was freely able to do so.

In Strange & Norrell madness and magic may not be the same thing but they are bedfellows nonetheless; each having some bearing and effect upon the other. Even so...

There were remarkably few spells for curing madness. Indeed he had found only one, and even then he was not sure that was what it was meant for. It was a prescription in Ormskirk's Revelations of Thirty-Six Other Worlds. Ormskirk said that it would dispel illusions and correct wrong ideas. Strange took out the book and read through the spell again. It was a peculiarly obscure piece of magic, consisting only of the following words:

"Place the moon at his eyes and her whiteness shall devour the false sights the deceiver has placed there.
Place a swarm of bees at his ears. Bees love truth and will destroy the deceiver's lies.
Place salt in his mouth lest the deceiver attempt to delight him with the taste of honey or disgust him with the taste of ashes.
Nail his hand with an iron nail so that he shall not raise it to do the deceiver's bidding.
Place his heart in a secret place so that all his desires shall be his own and the deceiver shall find no hold there.
Memorandum. The colour red may be found beneficial.”

However, as Strange read it through, he was forced to admit that he had not the least idea what it meant.


[1] Laura Dabundo (2009) Encyclopedia of romanticism: culture in Britain, 1780s-1830s
[3] Allan Beveridge (2001) "A disquieting feeling of strangeness?: the art of the mentally ill"
[5] Allan Beveridge (2001) "A disquieting feeling of strangeness?: the art of the mentally ill"
[7] Sigmar Polke (2004) "Private View"