The English Heretic Collection: Ritual Histories, Magickal Geography by Andy Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finding "the" starting point for this review is impossible. Though the book is contained in space, its ideas expand out in a herky-jerky supernova of stochasticity. The omphalos here is present, one can sense it, but to define it is to understand the entire work at once, an impossible task (I suspect, impossible even for the author, Andy Sharp himself). One can discern layers on the surface of the navel-of-the-world such as the grand trifecta of folk horror movies The Wicker Man, The Blood on Satan's Claw, and Witchfinder General, or the earth-shattering pop-tragedies of Hiroshima and November 22nd, 1963, or the creepier-than-is-proper-for-"good"-English-folk television of the 1970s (Robin Redbreast, Children of the Stones, Doctor Who, et al). There are feverish spikes into the occult underground and dives into the deep chambers of haunted Britain.
But to identify a "theme"? Practically impossible here.
Which is to say, I loved it. Like De Santillana's Hamlet's Mill or Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, we have her a work that is absolutely recognizable for its coherence, yet absolutely unexplainable in its breadth and diversity. These layers upon layers of seemingly-unrelated bits of academia, psychedelia, and cinemania churn in a veritable stew of potential conspiracy theories. But where the Q folk might take themselves far too seriously for the rest of the world, Sharp is fully aware that as he points one finger at the strange phenomena of the world, there are three other fingers pointing back at him in abject self-mockery. The humor saves us from what might otherwise turn into a panicked revelation of a Grand Conspiracy concocted from the paranoid dreams of those who would make too many connections where they should not, "seeing" "reality" for what "it is". No, Sharp is clear (and, pardon the pun, sharp) that while this work can be seen as a Working (in the esoteric magical sense of the word), it is not ritualistic, in that no one is expected to take an oath of fealty or secrecy or even to take any of this seriously.
But the connections are intriguing. And this Working is one of seeding the imaginal, of altering consciousness by pointing out the threads that at least seem to tie the strange underworld of the English isles (and, to a more limited extent, their distant American cousins) into a cohesive, meaningful whole. I use the word "seem" carefully. Because it's not these fallacious connections that stir the imagination, it is the possibility of such that calls on the reader to make their own connections, to carry on the Working into their own sphere of intellect, spirituality, and, yes, even their sense of humor about the ridiculousness of the cosmos and our self-important place in it.
So, welcome to the Working. Don't worry about when or where it will start. As you will see, in the stratums psychogeography, between Kennedy, Stonehenge, Baphomet and Brighton, peeking out from behind Fulcanelli and Manson, between the pages of the Necronomicon and and the astral-drenched walls of The House on the Borderland, there is no beginning, there is no end. Careful where you step - that rabbit hole might go down to forever, or never.
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