Tuesday 5 May 2009

Hard work and holidays

Crawling around in a dark, dusty attic and carrying heavy boxes down a wobbly ladder is not my ideal way to spend the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. But I had to. Workmen are coming to insulate my loft this week, and the loft had to be empty. So that meant hours of shifting years of family clutter.

No, I'd much rather have spent the weekend enjoying springtime and sunshine in the countryside, partying with friends or celebrating Beltane with some lovely pagans.

Well, on the Bank Holiday Monday I did manage to do that very last thing - getting together with some lovely pagans - at the Phoenix Rising workshop run by Vivianne Crowley, Caroline Robertson and Caroline Wise at the Neal's Yard Meeting Rooms, in London. I'm going to talk about this workshop in more detail on A Bad Witch's Blog later this week, but it was a great chance to meet old friends and make new ones, as well as being a wonderful exploration of the magick and symbolism of the mythological bird, the phoenix.

The phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes of destruction, and I kind of knew how it must feel, after two days of filthy work in my loft. My house is almost exactly 100 years old. It has belonged to my family for much of that time. My family are hoarders; my loft was full of junk. Oh and I don't think anyone had swept the loft at any time in that 100 years.

Lofts are destructive environments. They get very hot and very cold. Anything stored there dries out and ages rapidly. Paper, especially, turns brittle fast, then crumbles to dust. It was tragic to find books and papers that just disintigrated as you touched them. Someone must have once valued them enough to store them, but they were now rendered worthless. Sometimes even the old cardboard boxes themselves cracked as they were lifted, shedding their ruined contents like ancient confetti.

Luckily, not everything was ruined beyond recognition. I found photo albums dating back to the Victorian era, full of pictures of people whose names are lost to living memory. They might be long-dead relatives, but I have no way of knowing. I found clothes in fashions of bygone eras. One or two items still wearable - if you wanted a vintage look - most not. There was a box of 1970's platform shoes, all split and warped; a dress I remember wearing as a child; and a patchwork quilt that must have unfortunately been under a spot where the rain had come in so that mildew competed in pattern with the bright squares of floral print.

Not all the destruction was caused by time and the elements. I managed to drop and smash some antique porcelain. It had been stored because it was worth something - not any more, I guess.

Yet I did find some treasures that could be rescued - including a stack of occult magazines and newspapers from the 1960s and 70s, including the Occult Gazette and quite a few issues of Psychic News. These are going to make fascinating reading. I haven't had time to do more than glance at them so far, but I intend to give them a closer look and then write on my blog about a few issues that pagans, psychics and occultists were talking about 30 to 40 years ago.

The photo at the top of the page shows Neal's Yard. The photo right shows a few of the newspapers from my loft.

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