Thursday, 31 March 2016
Cathedral of Stars
So, I might be a little late to the party but I recently read an interdisciplinary masterwork by Gordon White, he of Rune Soup legend; a seminal new book called Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits. It’s an exquisite, scholarly and profound book, and gets my highest possible recommendation. Among other things Gordon applies his considerable intellectual and magical prowess to an exploration of star lore, genetics, geology, linguistics, Laurasian, Gondwanan and Pan-Gaean mythologies, and more specifically how they interrelate and why. He draws upon the work of Harvard Indologist E.J. Michael Witzel through that author’s book The Origins of the World’s Mythologies. Deepening Witzel’s research and contesting it where necessary Gordon presents a deeply compelling and nuanced case that the lineages and practices that shaped the Western Magical tradition are located at a time depth far, far earlier than has previously been understood.
Gordon covers a stunning array of sites and myths from all across the world, going back much further than one might imagine. He delves into the antediluvian antecedents of much of what we think we know about human culture and spirituality – and in doing so he presents us with far more nuanced understandings of both shamanism generally and also its practical application through culture-specific magical technologies. In my humble opinion Gordon has a very keen hold on how things bleed, blur and intermingle. Not only does he attempt to historicise all these threads more elegantly and effectively, he also succeeds in revitalising a far more interdisciplinary and sophisticated approach to research itself. It seems our current human pastimes and dominant stories – the Murdering of Monsters and the Mirroring of Heaven on Earth – goes back far earlier than we’ve been led to believe. Through Gordon’s work and the work of others like him we might be able to better contextualise our apparent belief in separation or a ‘Fall’, and thus our apparent concordant desire for unification. Such insights are useful not only magically, but culturally. This book has a staggeringly wide scope, and as such I suspect it will have a staggeringly wide array of subtle effects on those who read it. The following video is directly inspired by it. Any riffs, poetic licences or misinterpretations are my own. I’m not an Indologist, an archaeologist, an Egyptologist, or even a magician in the obvious sense of that term – but I do have my own Cathedral of Stars, my own ways of navigating and creating meaning. I speak with spirits too. Notes and aphorisms from my own Thief’s Journal are etched into the stone of this place. My own Cathedral predates my City, and it has been undeniably enriched and recontextualised through exposure to Gordon White’s seminal text. Which you can find here at Scarlet Imprint. Seriously, go read it. It is more than worth your time and money.
Not only is Star.Ships a powerful and lucid discussion about the magical, spiritual and cultural histories of the human race, to my eyes it’s also a keenly observed study on the nature and purposes of storytelling – how its vectors and contexts can affect and shape human consciousness, in ways that are both Seen and Unseen. The stars, and thus the spirits, are powerful. They communicate. Grandmother would be proud.