That which survives
"Have you been hallucinating lately?"
"No. Should I be?"
"Yes, you should be." - Videodrome
Undoubtedly it's a great consolation for those who presume there's nothing up there, to believe there's nothing down there, either. If it's just a material world, then occult crimes are mere crimes with a bizarre gloss of ritual to kink things up. Even when, as with the Hosanna Church cult, imprints of pentagrams are found on the floor of the "youth hall," and victims and perpetrators alike speak of sex magick and bloody devil worship in black robes, those whose philosophies are not big enough to admit such things happen will still deny them, because they must. Even if they admit that something like these crimes occurred - and that's a big concession for such people - they will strip them of their metaphysical content. It will be said - and I know it, because it's been said many times - that the devil worship of the paedophile ring was nothing but play acting, because there is no such thing as Satanic Ritual Abuse. The reasoning goes round and round like a magician's protective circle.
Still, it's increasingly difficult to tred softly upon the thin crust of modernity with so many eruptions all around us. It's been a hard few months for those who think the world isn't this weird. Maybe harder, even, for those of us who've suspected as much, but have hoped we were wrong. At least that's been my hope.
But one of the implications of the Hosanna Church is that however weird we thought the world, we ought to think again. As the owner of a local Christian bookstore told The New York Times, "if anything like this can happen in a place like Ponchatoula, with all the churches we have, it can happen anywhere." The case of Toledo's Reverend Gerald Robinson, charged in the ritual slaying of a nun and accused of participating in a paedophilic cult of Roman Catholic priests, is another. (I'm sure someone has said, "if it can happen in Toledo, it can happen anywhere.") Then there's yesterday's report of the Italian investigation into a child torture site which counted as patrons three priests; fresh allegations against Spokane's conservative mayor James West ("I want to do to your son what no mother would want to know"); James Guckert who, even if he's not Johnny Gosch, lent credibility to the case for covert paedophile rings by virtue of his own incredible journey to the White House - all of these stories and more are not suggestive of something new happening, but of something that has been going on for a long while right alongside us, which we are only now able to see. Or maybe, able to see again.
There's an interesting recent book by Toyne Newton titled The Dark Worship, that studies the persistence of a Hekate cult in Britain. (Hekate was a wild goddess of the hunt, noted for her strong sorcery, who inspired ecstatic episodes in devotees and typically received sacrifices of dogs.) Newton's investigations led him to Clapham Wood which, interestingly, has been a locus of both occult activity and UFO sightings. (Here, for instance, is an interesting recent account of "black boomerang-shaped objects" over Clapham.)
There's another account here of goings on in the wood by Charles Walker (who makes the mistake of presuming the extraterrestrial hyphothesis of UFOs, and so fails to see their potential occult significance):
Peace was not about to return to the village [following a UFO flap] however, as a new mystery began to unfold. Reports of dogs disappearing in certain parts of Clapham Wood attracted new interest. Dog owners reported that their dogs had wandered off in to the woods and were never seen again. In other cases dogs appeared to go mad in certain parts of the wood, running round in circles and foaming at the mouth. When they were taken out of that particular area they recovered fully.
What I became very interested in whilst looking through the various notes relating to Clapham Wood was the reports of the dog disappearances and the fact that a number of people had reported strange feelings whilst walking through certain parts of the wood. Such cases had, although I was not aware of it before, been reported some time prior to the first ufo sightings. Many people had always felt that there was something strange about the wood but they were not quite able to explain it. However having established myself within the group I was able to extract information from the files and visit one or two of the people who had reported their experiences. What I was particularly interested in of course were the experiences which had been reported before the publicity began, and there were quite a few cases.
After taking a call from an anonymous tipster, Walker arranged a meeting in the woods:
Just as I was about to give the whole thing up a voice coming from behind some bushes on my left told me not to attempt to look round. ‘Just listen to what I have to say’, he said. Hearing this voice so suddenly coming from the darkness and silence I had experienced for the past twenty minutes or so made me feel fear again. I was frozen to the spot yet felt like running as fast as I could. What was going to happen? ‘What an idiot’, I said to myself. ‘Why on earth had I let myself in for this?’ After a few seconds of silence the mystery person began to relate information regarding the activities of an occult group in the area. He also indicated that they used a sacrifice regularly at their rituals.
The group was called the Friends of Hekate and they were devoted to the Goddess Hekate whose close association with dogs meant that such creatures were being sacrificed in her honour. He went on to tell how the group, whose activities he said were of a satanic nature, was formed in Sussex and had been using Clapham and the surrounding area for some time. They had been responsible for taking the dogs and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The dogs, and occasionally other domestic and farm animals, were sacrificed at their monthly meetings. He also added that they would stop at nothing to protect the identity of their members and the activities of the group.
Continuing his investigations, Walker discovered a huge, crude mural in an unoccupied building abutting the woods, that depicted a devilish, horned figure with sharp talons and forked tail on a background of flames. It appeared to be clutching a religious orb bearing an eight-armed cross and circle. Newton's own research revealed that the Clapham Woods' Friends of Hekate was just a single cell of a network including Winchester, Avebury and London, which used a typically occultic system of grades of initiation to protect the identities and intentions of those in London's inner circle. Also typically, elite figures are counted among its members.
Hekate worship would seem to be both archaic and irrelevant, but ask the dog owners. And if he could be reached, the late Clapham vicar Harry Neal Snelling, whose murder remains unsolved, might have something interesting to add.
We're really talking here about the persistance of archetypes, and those do have power, and have been known to us by many guises. For example, in China Galland's Longing for Darkness, she writes how ancient goddess worship has been transmitted in part through the adoration of Mary, particularly the "Black Madonna." In other words, devotion to Mary may be merely apparent; the Queen of Heaven may have another face. After all, Hekate was said to have three of them.
Similarly, perhaps Marian appearences could be manifestations of something quite apart from the mother of Jesus. It's interesting to read accounts of the first appearance of Mary to four girls in Garabandal, Spain in 1961:
The next night around 6:00 pm, the girls went into ecstacy, or a trance while seeing the Virgin Mary. She appeared to them with two angels, both of which looked exactly like St Michael, and over her right shoulder the children saw a flaming red square with a triangle and an eye in it, and some Oriental writing in it.
A manifestation such as that - yes, that's right: a triangle with a freakin' eye in it - reminds me, I'm embarassed to admit, of Star Trek V, and James Kirk's staring down the supposed deity with the question, "Excuse me - why does God need a spaceship?"
Clapham Woods (copyright Charles Walker) and Garabandal
Hekate was identified with the folklore of the Wild Hunt, which "was a historical phenomenon among all Indo-European peoples." She was often held to lead the charge:
The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal group of huntsmen...in mad pursuit across the skies. Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it. Mortals getting in the path of or following the Hunt could be kidnapped and brought to the land of the dead.
Naturally, today's "Wild Hunt" across the skies conjures, perhaps literally, UFOs. Instead of gods hunting prey, they are thought to be extraterrestrials seeking subjects to "probe." As then, mortals who get in the path of the Hunt risk abduction, and as then, the Hunt is held to prefigure a looming apocalypse.
If we are fast approaching an end of things - not the end of the world, but a catastrophic break in global civilization - perhaps it's not so strange that we should see our culture assume again the characteristics of the beginning of things. Something long hidden revealing its true face. So the Dark Worship reasserts itself, and we're carried again to the land of the dead.
Leonard Cohen called it The Future.
There'll be a breaking of the ancient Western Code.
Your private life will suddenly explode.
There'll be fires, there'll be phantoms on the road,
And the white man dancing.