The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

City of Marble and Beryl

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: One of those things that your humble narrator is guilty of is a tendency, when confronted with something alien or unknown, to “fill in the blanks” via an inexact mixing of logical supposition and impressionist reasoning. The opposite of exactitude, this can result in wild ideas and false assumptions being presented and accepted as fact. I would love to tell you which cultic group these artifacts belong to- but the fact is that I just don’t know. Certain assumptions can be hazarded, based on cursory resemblance and observed phenomena, but they will be guesses. Don’t assume my interpretation of things is correct.

Witness, then, what I observed in St. Michael’s Cemetery on the Saturday before Easter- April 3rd, 2010- right about here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In St. Michael’s, there is a hill which faces East and whose tombstones are very old. The graves are in a state of disrepair, and the stones are found to be in a ruined state. This is no fault of the Cemetery, which maintains its grounds in a meticulous fashion, instead it is merely time and weather which have worked their havoc on the monuments. Perambulating through the grounds on Saturday with Our Lady of the Pentacle, we found this scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A variety of Afro-Cuban syncretic faiths use similar iconography, but the one which most of the english speaking community is passingly familiar with is called Santeria (aka Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi). This appeared to be Santeria to me at first- because of the particular color scheme of the candles (red white and blue) and the co-mingling of coinage and sacrificial bones. But the Santeria folks generally do their thing indoors, in a ritual space consecrated and blessed by their own padrinos, just like the Catholics. Graveyards are usually avoided for rituals as they are negative places.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My observation has been that the local latino populations in Astoria tend to be South rather than Central American, and the geographic heritage of Santeria is Caribbean and Central American. Afro-Cuban religion sprang up amongst the African Slaves brought to the New World to work the sugar and tobacco fields who were forced to adopt Roman Catholicism. Voodoo in Haiti and Louisiana, Hoodoo in the American South- all products of the French empire- with Santeria, Obeah, and Palo progeny of the Spanish.

The other great Catholic nation that held huge numbers of west africans as livestock was Portugal, and it did so in Brazil- where Umbanda, Candomblé, Macumba, and Quimbanda originate. Brazil is in South America, of course, and there are tremendous populations of Brazilians living nearby St. Michael’s in surrounding Astoria. This is some of that logical supposition I warned you about…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Folk magic sites like this raise the ire of Eurasian morals, as ritual animal sacrifice is kept out of sight in our modern communities, and commoditized as Kosher or Halal or Organic meat. Blood sacrifice and submission to cultural norms, from circumcision to ear piercings to the elaborate face paint called “cosmetics”, are part of our daily lives. This sort of visceral aftereffect of some unfortunate avian’s end, however, is disturbing. No less though, than a crucifixion or any other blood ritual.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the many ridiculous totems tucked away in my jacket pocket is a small magnetic compass. When I began these long walks around what I would someday call the Newtown Pentacle, it served me well, and today it revealed that this ritual space was lined up exactly on the cardinal points of my trusty little friend.

The scattering of bottles, bones, coins, and candles sits east of the stone which is aligned north south in the long dimension, and its anterior face is west facing. This will become increasingly important.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little package and knife are north east of the monument which I’ll be referring to as an altar. I did not open it, of course, it is against Newtown Pentacle policy to actually touch any of the odd things I come across, like the Pulaski Bridge, with bare skin. This whole neighborhood could use a good scrub, if you ask me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, if you click any of these images- a new window will open up its Flickr Page. Clicking the “all sizes” button found there will take you to progressively larger incarnations- all the way up to “actual pixels”. Check these out, I’ve spent some time trying to figure out what’s inside of the package. Do any of you sharp eyed Ladies and Lords of Newtown out there wish to hazard a guess? Use the “leave a comment” link.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Seeing the blade and little kidney shaped package gave the whole scene a somewhat sinister air, and that’s when I remembered to check what else might be found on the cardinal meridians of the  compass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western facing of the altar sits at the pinnacle of a muddy ridge, which bears much subsidence. The underpinnings of the stone, and declination of the hill itself, fall away rapidly. These candles were observed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing special about one of them, the other was unusual. Both red.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The west facing side of the scene, from the bottom of the little hill. Note the tumbled and disorganized state of the masonry. North is to your left, south to the right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving north, a white candle .

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on top of the hill, directly east of the white candle above, and north of the main altar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A green and a pink candle on a dish of “some quality”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West of altar, a tumbled monument, with odd etchings on it. Can this be some sort of language?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

South of altar, west side of hill, a plastic bottle with some sort of red/brown liquid in it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Notice that the ground is depressed here, as if something very heavy- like a tombstone- had been moved recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the other end of the divot was this foil wrapped bottle which looked like it had been in the ground for a long time. Notice how the moss grows right up to it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Top of hill, south side, looking north across site. There are feathers scattered around the grass, mainly just north of the altar. Click here for a flickr page which shows some detail of the feathers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was also this upside down cross.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 7, 2010 at 1:43 am

6 Responses

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  1. […] For the first post on this curious altar- “City of Marble and Beryl“, in Astoria’s St. Michael’s Cemetery- click here […]

  2. […] City of Marble and Beryl […]

  3. […] For the first post on this curious altar- “City of Marble and Beryl”, in Astoria’s St. Michael’s Cemetery – click here […]

  4. […] Wasn’t that the place with the weird ritual site that you posted about in “City of Marble and Beryl“, “Effulgent Valleys“, and “Strange Prayers” a few months back? What […]

  5. […] first posting in this series was ”City of Marble and Beryl“, from the 7th of April in […]

  6. […] the old village of Astoria, conducting midnight bacchanals concurrent with the lunar cycle. “City of Marble and Beryl” was but the first of many moons which witnessed a working of will amongst the desolations of […]


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