Monday, May 01, 2017

From Eleusis to Edinburgh

Not safe for workish

Well, in honor of the holiday there's a gallery of photos from the Beltane Fire Festival up on the Daily Mail's site to eye-gobble. The Festival is celebrating its 30th year anniversary, yet another landmark correlating to the Years of Seven we looked at a short while back.

I'm no numerologist so I can't exactly say why seven seems to be so significant in the World of Weird, I can only catalog the correspondences. 

The Festival is an ancient Mystery play to its innermost core, a spectacle that would have done Eleusis proud (flaming headdresses were a big item there as well). It's astonishing how primal and powerful it all looks in a world in which spectacle has become wallpaper. It's proof of what I was bloviating about recently, how the raw and the human still have meaning and value in a world slouching towards Skynet.

Now some of you may argue that this is all theater, performance art, that the majority of the participants (and observers) don't really believe in any of this any pagan crap, but do you really think it was any different in Classical Greece, who gave us the very words skepticism and agnosticism? Hell,  it probably wasn't all that much different in Pre-Roman Britain.

The deities here are in the details. Like that revanchist pagan holiday Carnival, the gods of these kinds of revelries are verbs. The old gods were about action not idle contemplation. I doubt they much care if anyone believes in them or not, so long as they put on eye-raping spectacles the way Edinburgh does.

I'm currently working on a post about the morphogenesis of British paganism in the context of the current folk horror revival that will revisit some of these themes.

Enjoying another 30 year anniversary is the maiden release from the nascent KLF, then dubbed The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu.  Back in their heyday, you really couldn't tell if The KLF were high art or an elaborate hoax, geniuses or drugged-out numbskulls on a MIDI bender. Which, of course, means the project was a roaring success.

Since they're tuned into these kinds of things, The KLF appropriately chose another Year of Seven to emerge from a Rip Van Winkle sabbatical. From a helpful recap of their long and strange career in The Guardian:

Now as we reach the symbolic 23rd anniversary of the cash-sacrifice on Jura – 23 being a totemic figure in Illuminatus! numerology and thus in JAMMs lore – the KLF are back. Gnomic flyposters promise a KLF book and an event in August “unearthing aspects of the 2023 trilogy across Liverpool”, where Drummond’s career began. The Illuminati, once a private fixation for Drummond, Cauty and the 1970s counterculture, have become a pop-culture obsession (see BeyoncĂ© and her pyramid hand gestures). The KLF, AKA The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, were always agents of chaos. 
Now the world they anticipated is here.
Interesting that the post-hippie weird wave had such a huge impact on the British underground, ultimately flowering into a battalion of bands who remain interesting to this day. The KLF, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Killing Joke are just a few of the unimaginably influential acts that fed at this trough and in turn fed an even larger legion of copyists. 

There was considerable overlap and incestuous intermingling among this set (the KLF's Jimmy Cauty played with Killing Joke's Youth in Brilliant, who managed at least one great track before falling in the 80s pop arcade and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson played with The Orb).

More proof that the most resonant pop culture has a firm grounding in the esoteric. A good argument could be made that esotericism's only real, objective value is in feeding into the culture through some form of art, whether you're talking music, comics, movies and so on.  That's certainly how the overwhelming majority of people experience it.

Of course, it's also a process that can be used for constructive or destructive ends.

UPDATE: Speaking of Edinburgh and sevens here's an excerpt from a 2012 interview with the Siren. 
And this, she assures me at one point with a wild laugh, is her in decisive mood – she has turned a corner, having said no for such a long time she has resolved to start saying yes.What's happened, I wonder, to make her feel so uncharacteristically bullish?
She thinks for a moment. "What can I say?" she says. "I think it has to do with sevens." 
"I've always had a thing about sevens. And I am coming up for my 49th birthday in August. Seven sevens. It feels like a really important moment to consider all the things that are coming toward me." She stops for a while, reconsiders. "And my mum died very recently so maybe that has something to do with it too."
By the way, we're coming up fast on the 20th anniversary of Jeff Buckley's death.