The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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certain steps

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Happy Independence Day week, lords and ladies.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Whew. It’s been a very busy June for your humble narrator, and as has become a tradition at this – your Newtown Pentacle – when a holiday week is upon us, single images devoid of verbose description will be offered. At the beginning of the month, a trip to the Queens Zoo at Flushing Meadow Corona Park was enacted for my Brownstoner Queens column, and all the shots presented this week were collected during that excursion.

Pictured above is an American Bison.

I’ll be back next week with “real” postings, after I’ve had a chance to take a breath and eat some BBQ.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

settled shape

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As stated in yesterday’s posting, a certain “sense of pursuit” possessed me after having visited Calvary Cemetery the other day.

A panicked perambulation, flight more than evasion, came upon me and carried your humble narrator bodily across most of western Queens for the rest of the day as attempts were made to return the rolling hillocks of Astoria. The spectral shadow which dogged my steps, whose identity is suspected, appeared shortly after one particularly gruesome moment.

I stepped in a dead rabbit.

The population of “groundling burrowers” at Calvary Cemetery has been discussed before, in this February 2010 Newtown Pentacle posting “Shoosh… Be Very Quiet… I’m hunting rabbits…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The hydrological after effects of the recent snow cover, and its concurrent melt waters, are evidenced across the great cemetery by disturbing subsidence and in some places- wash outs. The ground itself is not altogether stable, given its level of saturation, and caution was exercised in not getting too close to older monuments and headstones for fear of toppling them from an undermined foundation.

A moment of indiscretion resulted in me planting a step right into the carcass of a groundling, however.

(these hydrological events will be discussed in a later posting)

from eho.syr.edu

Dead Animals are associated with the spread of human disease and may present a potential hazard for employees, students and visitors.

The greatest hazard related to dead animals is the potential for the indirect spread of human disease by live animal parasites (fleas and ticks). Fleas and ticks are parasites that feed, breed and live on most wild animals. Both fleas and ticks have irritating bites and can transmit disease. Risk of exposure to fleas and ticks increases when handling dead animals, because these parasites are actively seeking a live host and may be very abundant on the animal or in the immediate area. Dead animals should only be handled by appropriate Physical Plant and Housing employees.

Animal Carcass Disposal Procedures. The following procedures must be used when removing and disposing of an animal carcass:

  • At a minimum, workers must wear thick rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants, and closed toed shoes when handling dead animals.
  • Transfer small animal carcasses to doubled plastic bags using shovel or gloved hand.
  • Double bagged carcasses must be placed in an outdoor garbage dumpster.
  • Large animal carcasses, such as a deer, must be transported to a remote wood area on University property and buried three feet below ground. Only University owned pick-up trucks may be used to transport large animal carcasses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

What was odd, given the predators which overfly or cross Calvary in a quadripedal manner- and an abundant soil ecosystem whose foodstuffs are better left undescribed- was that the rabbit itself seemed to have just died on the spot and was left to decay. It “came apart” due to my accidental contact, seemed to be quite dehydrated, and was just laying out in the open.

One would expect to witness a cloud of flies, or other forms of insectivorous life at work, but it was curiously intact. Maybe the Chinese New Year figures into it somehow.

from wikipedia

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit ( 兔 ) is actually the Chinese Year of the Hare, as China has seven native species of hares and no native species of rabbits. The Chinese applied their word for hare to the first rabbits to be taken to China, and the word is now erroneously back-translated into English as rabbit. The hare is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Hare is associated with the earthly branch symbol 卯.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An exquisite irony, of course, is that Calvary Cemetery is the final resting place for many Irish immigrants of the 19th century- including a large number who were members of the legendary street gang “the De’d Ráibéads” or “Dead Rabbits”. When escape from my ghostly pursuer was finally attained, and this tale was breathlessly related back at Newtown Pentacle HQ, my patient listeners thought that I had actually fallen into the grave of some 19th century Lower East Sider like Kit Burns.

from wikipedia

The Dead Rabbits were a gang in New York City in the 1850s, and originally were a part of the Roach Guards. The name has a second meaning rooted in Irish American vernacular of NYC in 1857. The word “Rabbit” is the phonetic corruption of the Irish word ráibéad, meaning “man to be feared”. “Dead” was a slang intensifier meaning “very”. Thus, a “Dead Ráibéad” means a man to be greatly feared. The gang was sometimes also known as the Black Birds.

The gang was led by Priest Valon and achieved great renown for their organization and prowess as thieves and thugs. The fighting uniform of the Roach Guards was a blue stripe on their pantaloons, while the Dead Rabbits adopted a red stripe. In riots their emblem was a dead rabbit impaled on a spike. The Rabbits and the Guards swore undying enmity and constantly fought each other at the Five Points, but in the rows with the water-front and Bowery Boys they made common cause against the enemy, as did other Five Points gangs including the Shirt Tails and Chichesters. The gang was later led by Irishman Aidan Bourke also known as “Black Dog” possibly because a ruthless nature similar to that of the ghost dog in the folklores of the Celtic and British Isles.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This rabbit’s foot seems to have brought little or no luck to it’s original owner, and little sense has ever accompanied that particular superstition as far as I’m concerned. It was while taking this shot that I suddenly became aware of a “feeling of being watched”, a well honed sense impression for those of us who wander the streets with our cameras, one which normally presages the familiar “bleep bleep” of an NYPD radio patrol car or some Private Security guard about to query “what are you doing?”. Looking around, solitude remained untrammeled, but a weird reflection behind me was observed on the corner of the lens to my glasses.

Upon spinning around, expecting to see a groundskeeper or some other visitor to the place, there was nothing and no one.

from wikipedia

A mild form of hallucination is known as a disturbance, and can occur in any of the senses above. These may be things like seeing movement in peripheral vision, or hearing faint noises and/or voices. Auditory hallucinations are very common in paranoid schizophrenia. They may be benevolent (telling the patient good things about themselves) or malicious, cursing the patient etc. Auditory hallucinations of the malicious type are frequently heard like people talking about the patient behind their back. Like auditory hallucinations, the source of their visual counterpart can also be behind the patient’s back. Their visual counterpart is the feeling of being looked-stared at, usually with malicious intent. Frequently, auditory hallucinations and their visual counterpart are experienced by the patient together.

Hypnagogic hallucinations and hypnopompic hallucinations are considered normal phenomena. Hypnagogic hallucinations can occur as one is falling asleep and hypnopompic hallucinations occur when one is waking up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbed at this point by my perception, and by the curious feeling of being watched, I nevertheless continued my “business” at Calvary. Antiquarian pursuits and historical inquiries aside, it was quite a lovely day- and the first hint of spring was in the air.

What better way to spend it than in a lovely garden cemetery?

from wikipedia

The rural cemetery or garden cemetery is a style of burial ground that uses landscaping in a park-like setting.

Landscaping and tree planting at Green-Wood Cemetery in BrooklynAs early as 1711 the architect Sir Christopher Wren had advocated the creation of burial grounds on the outskirts of town, “inclosed with a strong Brick Wall, and having a walk round, and two cross walks, decently planted with Yew-trees”[1]. By the early 19th century, with urban populations expanding, the existing churchyards were growing unhealthily overcrowded with graves stacked upon each other, or emptied and reused for newer burials. As a reaction to this, the first landscaped cemetery was opened in 1804, as the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

The garden cemetery in the USA was a development of this style. Prior to this, urban burial grounds were generally sectarian located on small plots within cities. The new design took the cemetery out of the control of the church, using an attractive park built on a grander scale, using architectural design and careful planting, inspired by the English garden movement.

marble glories

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A favored aphorism amongst Occultists is “as above, so below”, a saying attributed to having been coined by Hermes Trismegistis and recorded upon the legendary Kitab Sirr al-Asrar (aka Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina) or Emerald Tablet.

Such thoughts and sayings often trouble a humble narrator when traveling across the emerald devastations of First Calvary Cemetery here in Queens. The arabic origin of the word Ghoul (ghul) notwithstanding, the term seems appropriate to describe one such as myself, “a person who delights in the macabre.”- although I’m proud to say that (as of yet) I’ve never robbed a grave, drank human blood, or eaten a small child- which are other trademarks of the legendarily abhorrent and undead creatures.

Life has taught me to never say “never” however.

from thefreedictionary.com

ghoul [guːl]n

  1. a malevolent spirit or ghost
  2. a person interested in morbid or disgusting things
  3. a person who robs graves
  4. (Myth & Legend / Non-European Myth & Legend) (in Muslim legend) an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either stolen corpses or children

[from Arabic ghūl, from ghāla he seized]

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All ‘effed up, one of the things which tortures me in those moments before sleep comes is “why am I so fascinated by graveyards?”.

Is it some sort of pretentious “Memento mori” artsy fartsy thing, or is there something motivating me that lies deeply buried and hidden in the polyandrion of ideation which defines my thoughts? When these photos were shot, I was indeed “searching for (the name that must never be spoken again)” but as often happens to me in this place, my concentration began to fray and tear in the manner of an overburdened rope. Imaginings and fantastic notions march into your mind here, and on this day, I became convinced that I heard grunting sounds rising from the soil.

As above, so below- and as your humble narrator was walking the gentle landscaping of Calvary, enjoying the bright emanations of that burning thermonuclear eye of god itself- were unknown counterparts mirroring my movements in some subterrane grotto?

from wikipedia

Ideas of reference and delusions of reference involve people having a belief or perception that irrelevant, unrelated or innocuous phenomena in the world refer to them directly or have special personal significance. In psychiatry, delusions of reference form part of the diagnostic criteria for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or bipolar disorder during the elevated stages of mania.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As a believer in nothing but the hydrogen bomb (the very existence and functionality of which proves the sterile Einsteinian worldview of the universe, as espoused by Physicist and Mathematician alike, as valid and true. How many angels, or neutrinos, can dance on the head of a pin- indeed), I fancy myself a student of debased and superstitious folklore nevertheless. Revenants, Dybbuks, Dhampirs, and Vrykolakas enter my thoughts when I move through these lonely places during my vast solitudes.

Apotropaic devices are absent from my coterie of gadgets and cameras, and whatever dark and cthonic powers may be extant and watching would perceive me as defenseless. Part of the reason I only go to this place during the brightly lit hours of the day, I suppose.

from wikipedia

In Hindu folklore, the vetala is an evil spirit who haunts cemeteries and takes demonic possession of corpses. They make their displeasure known by troubling humans. They can drive people mad, kill children, and cause miscarriages, but also guard villages.

They are hostile spirits of the dead trapped in the ‘twilight zone’ between life and afterlife. These creatures can be repelled by the chanting of holy mantras. One can free them from their ghostly existence by performing their funerary rites. Being unaffected by the laws of space and time, they have an uncanny knowledge about the past, present, and future and a deep insight into human nature. Therefore many sorcerers seek to capture them and turn them into slaves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, this is a Roman Catholic cemetery, which suggests that the multitudes who lie here were sealed off- magickly- by the sacrament of “Extreme Unction” from suffering such macabre experiences as walking about the earth seeking living victims in some post mortem half life. The heritage of the Catholics extends back through time to the Dagon devotees of Syria and the tomb worshipping Etruscans, and the Romans spent enough time in Egypt and North Africa to have picked up and incorporated many of the Magicks they found into the syncretic system of beliefs and rites known as and inherited by modernity as Catholicism. The mysteries of the church are many, and varied, and more has been forgotten or lost over the centuries than any single lifetime can recover.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

from wikipedia

Magick is an Early Modern English spelling for magic, used in works such as the 1651 translation of De Occulta Philosophia, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, or Of Magick. The British occultist Aleister Crowley, chose the spelling to differentiate the occult from stage magic and defined it as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will”, including both “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic. Crowley claimed that “it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature”.  John Symonds and Kenneth Grant attach a deeper occult significance to this preference.

Crowley saw magick as the essential method for a person to reach true understanding of the self and to act according to one’s True Will, which he saw as the reconciliation “between free will and destiny.”

Since the time of Crowley’s writing about magick, many different spiritual and occult traditions have adopted the K spelling, but some have redefined what it means to some degree. For some modern occultists, it refers strictly to paranormal magic, which involves influencing events and physical phenomena by supernatural, mystical, or paranormal means.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As above, so below. The full quotation, as translated into english from a latin translation of the original Arabic by Isaac Newton (whose groundbreaking work- particularly “De motu corporum in gyrum”- sets the stage for the later realization of the Einsteinian viewpoint, the Hydrogen Bomb, and our modern world of space going craft, jet travel, and deep sea exploration) goes:

“That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.”

from wikipedia

The Liber de Causis was a philosophical work attributed to Aristotle that became popular in the Middle Ages, first in Arabic and Islamic countries and later in the Latin West. The real authorship remains a mystery, but most of the content is taken from Proclus’ Elements of Theology. This was first noticed by Thomas Aquinas, following William of Moerbeke’s translation of the works of Proclus into Latin.

The original title in Arabic was Kitāb ul-īḍāḥ li-Arisţūţālis fi’l-khayri’l-maḥd, “The book of Aristotle’s explanation of the pure good”. The title Liber de Causis came into use following the translation into Latin by Gerard of Cremona.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2011 at 3:01 pm

involuntary marching

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

from “the Terrible Old Man” by H.P. Lovecraft

The inhabitants of Kingsport say and think many things about the Terrible Old Man which generally keep him safe from the attention of gentlemen like Mr. Ricci and his colleagues, despite the almost certain fact that he hides a fortune of indefinite magnitude somewhere about his musty and venerable abode. He is, in truth, a very strange person, believed to have been a captain of East India clipper ships in his day; so old that no one can remember when he was young, and so taciturn that few know his real name. Among the gnarled trees in the front yard of his aged and neglected place he maintains a strange collection of large stones, oddly grouped and painted so that they resemble the idols in some obscure Eastern temple. This collection frightens away most of the small boys who love to taunt the Terrible Old Man about his long white hair and beard, or to break the small-paned windows of his dwelling with wicked missiles; but there are other things which frighten the older and more curious folk who sometimes steal up to the house to peer in through the dusty panes. These folk say that on a table in a bare room on the ground floor are many peculiar bottles, in each a small piece of lead suspended pendulum-wise from a string. And they say that the Terrible Old Man talks to these bottles, addressing them by such names as Jack, Scar-Face, Long Tom, Spanish Joe, Peters, and Mate Ellis, and that whenever he speaks to a bottle the little lead pendulum within makes certain definite vibrations as if in answer.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am

Posted in Photowalks

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weird perfumes

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

from the “Shadow over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft

As for the Innsmouth people – the youth hardly knew what to make of them. They were as furtive and seldom seen as animals that live in burrows, and one could hardly imagine how they passed the time apart from their desultory fishing. Perhaps – judging from the quantities of bootleg liquor they consumed – they lay for most of the daylight hours in an alcoholic stupor. They seemed sullenly banded together in some sort of fellowship and understanding – despising the world as if they had access to other and preferable spheres of entity. Their appearance – especially those staring, unwinking eyes which one never saw shut – was certainly shocking enough; and their voices were disgusting. It was awful to hear them chanting in their churches at night, and especially during their main festivals or revivals, which fell twice a year on April 30th and October 31st.

They were very fond of the water, and swam a great deal in both river and harbour. Swimming races out to Devil Reef were very common, and everyone in sight seemed well able to share in this arduous sport. When one came to think of it, it was generally only rather young people who were seen about in public, and of these the oldest were apt to be the most tainted-looking. When exceptions did occur, they were mostly persons with no trace of aberrancy, like the old clerk at the hotel. One wondered what became of the bulk of the older folk, and whether the “Innsmouth look” were not a strange and insidious disease-phenomenon which increased its hold as years advanced.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2010 at 12:15 am

Posted in Photowalks

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