The day begins with comrades and I busing down to Trafalgar Square, where thousands gather to protest the president, picket signs in hand. Elated by this show of force, I settle in afterwards at the British Library for another round of research. Objects of study include a full run of Gandalf’s Garden and books by Ithell Colquhoun. Dare I share here the fruits of this research, or shall I exercise discretion, assuming that the terms of my use of this material will be made manifest in the days ahead? “All in due time,” I decide over a bowl of Spicy Tonkotsu. “All in due time.”
A long, rewarding day of research in one of the reading rooms at the British Library culminates in a relaxing evening in a park, the latter being my preferred space to write of late. A bell tower rings the hour as a woman in a violet dress and matching sandals strides past. I close my eyes and witness a crumbling facade amid a landscape of “unverified personal gnosis.” Elsewhere in the city, figurehead greets slumlord-in-chief, as in a Trauerspiel on the banality of evil.
Pint glasses clank together in a bin behind a bar emptied of patrons on a gray evening — the eve of another workweek. Pubs of this sort are all wood, leather, and tweed. Old-timey, tradition-bound. But comfortable all the same. I’ve been reading up on witches these past few days, Alex Mar’s book Witches in America leading me through a brief history featuring figures like Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley and groups like the OTO. I’m of mixed mind regarding this history, curious but wary. The power of these traditions seems undeniable — but what are the principles guiding this power, and toward what end?
I sit in a striped deck chair in London’s St. James Park and dissolve into the multilingual surround, replacing sight with sound. This trip has been a humbling experience, a peeling away of old forms in anticipation of something new. Where are the echoing voices that used to speak so readily? Is it wrong of me to feel like I’ve been abandoned and forsaken? I presume this, too, shall pass.
These first few days in London have fed me an abundance of inputs — colors, textures, lectures, exhibitions. Here I am in Spa Fields, a small park behind Exmouth Market, struggling to assimilate what I’ve encountered. I attended a wonderful event last night at The Horse Hospital called “Towards a Progressive Magic.” The talks by Amy Hale and Phil Legard spoke directly to my current interest in esotericism and the occult, but a path hasn’t yet revealed itself. What exactly is the issue? What am I searching for? Statues? Pianos? Pigeons? The John Soane House was a blast yesterday afternoon, with its crypt and its post-apocalyptic bird’s-eye view of the Bank of England, as was this morning’s tour of the Globe Theatre and the show I caught this afternoon at the Tate Modern devoted to Surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning.
I wake from a series of vivid anxiety dreams and Trump-inspired apocalyptic nightmares. The first reminds me of J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island retold in the style of Angela Carter. A grifter drives her car off an embankment into a stand of trees. Still a bit woozy from her crash, she wanders into an enchanted garden, at the center of which stands the twenty-first-century equivalent of a witch’s cottage. When the grifter learns that the cottage is for sale, she poses as a potential buyer. In a second dream, by far the more frightening of the two, a pair of middle-aged shock jocks wait in a hotel room preparing for a visit from the president. The shock jocks look oddly similar to one another. Picture Sir Richard Branson as a pair of coke-addled stringy-haired Texans. Close-up of a swastika carved into the bun of a McDonald’s cheeseburger. The POV withdraws to reveal my dream-self watching the shock jocks on a monitor, as if they were part of a feed from a surveillance camera. A woman enters the room and with infinite care suggests that I get my plans in order for the time ahead — at which point I wake.
Sarah and I pause to rest our feet at a burrito bar midafternoon after touring the National Gallery, where we stood transfixed beside Holbein’s “The Ambassadors” and Salvator Rosa’s “Witches at Their Incantations.” Names come tumbling into consciousness, forming pathways for future research: John Michell, Gerald Gardner, Jeff Nuttall, Count Stenbock, Ithell Colquhoun.