A Dishonest Regional Archetype

 The Black Country Archetype

Is Regional Identity Good? 


I was raised in the Black Country, a region in the West Midlands of England, known for its industrial heritage and its unique dialect. A dialect in which Anglo-Saxon and Middle English are still evident in both vocabulary and grammar. Place names like Dudd (Dudley), Wulferehamtun (Wolverhampton) and Craegleah (Cradley Heath) show Germanic influence. In the Black Country museum and many local history books, the people of the Black Country are celebrated for their strong work ethic, community spirit, and their sense of humour. Most television broadcasts and YouTube videos portray Black Country folk as being proud of their hard industrious heritage, as if they were descendants of Tubal Cain like D.R Guttery once shared in the historical accounts of his book, ‘The Great Civil War in Midland Parishes’. My Grandfather even appears in a photograph in one book about Lye, another Black Country town, while a distant relative of mine wrote a book about Rowley Regis. We who have lived here, see this familiar reminder of how the Black Country reputation came from hard work and resourcefulness. They are known for their willingness to put in long hours and get the job done (Chinn, 2002). As beautiful as it may be, I disagree with the lot of it! Black Country unemployment in 2020 was 4.9%, compared to 4.0% in England.

Old black country homeless man playing a fiddle

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), show the rates for the Black Country local authorities in October-December 2022:

Dudley: 5.1%

Sandwell: 4.3%

Walsall: 4.6%

Wolverhampton: 5.2%

These figures are higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.7%. 

In the 90s, I remember doing a Youth Training Scheme. I stupidly signed up to do retail because I didn't care. They expected full-time hours in a card shop in the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. The Midland Oak Skills Training group (MOST) who trained gullible people like me to secure a future. We were granted £30 a week of whatever they made from their customers in exchange for providing these 'training opportunities'. We all know the name for this sort of thing. I recall the shop manager who wanted nothing from me but his free shop keeping. I was also conned out of two video games by one of the christmas stall temps—great times. The Black Country, like the very nature of humanity, has always had its exploitative streaks, and of course, it could be predatory, especially to children back in the industrial era. Retrospectively, Good Words magazine featured a run of articles about the Black Country back in 1880, which I found fascinating. My wife discovered the year book in a charity shop, it was full of various writings and stories, but I stumbled upon the work of Elihu Burritt. One of his Black Country articles. I think it was called ‘Walks in the Black Country and its green border-land,’ and it reminded me of an early sociological type of study because this American man briefly stayed in the Black Country and engaged with the people, like anthropologists have done before. E. P Thompson (1963) described the Black Country as ‘a region of fierce local loyalties, of gangs and factions, of feuds and vendettas. It was also a region of political radicalism, of chartism, of trade unionism, and of religious dissent’. Quite a few sources have highlighted the environmental degradation caused by the area's heavy industries. Honest historical sources show the dodgy things Black Country folk did, such as heavy drinking, animal fighting and violence against one another. Here we see parallels drawn with troubled Victorian cities like London and Birmingham. In the few nineteenth century writings I've read, contemporary authors have described Black Country child labour, people having unhealthy looking skin and many weak looking men with thin frames. However, after exploring nail making families and alike, my Good Words book became much more complimentary to the reserved qualities of the people in those hard-up communities. 

Old black country photograph of a group of men


Burritt's article, like all articles, helped to raise awareness of the social conditions of the working class in England and I doubt no gentleman of his day wished to smear a community's character. The Black Country, with its plethora of factories, furnaces and mines, was an outstanding portrayal of the hazards of industrialization. No sincere writer pushed the familiar narrative of the happy Black Country workers who loved to slave in a mine or a furnace all day for a pittance. Numerous writers, from Victorian times to relatively modern years have exposed the hardship of this Black Country, describing it as a ‘vast workshop,’ where ‘every town is a factory, every house a forge.’ Thomas described the working-class neighbourhoods as ‘fever dens and 'rookeries,’ because overcrowding and disease were common. The Black Country was a wretched place of suffering for so many people. Individuals and families alike all did whatever they could to survive the harshness of that reality. When I hear that jive about Black Country comradery, my memories rise to challenge it, here are a few examples: a fellow worker sucker-punching my dad full pelt in his face while he operated a machine; snarly supervisors have bordered on abuse and violence, enjoying their occupational leverage over those of lower rank. A certain relative of mine was beaten up by her husband, and recollections of those frequent weekend brawls the drunks succumbed to along our run of pubs; all of these experiences make a mockery of the noble Black Country archetype. One night a car was set on fire and it exploded in our street, we had our own cars broken into, property was stolen from our gardens and I saw a fair share of egotism and even a murderer. Nothing informs a person like experience and few Black Country people are the salt of the earth types—exceptions do exist, however. 

Old photograph of a team of a female work team


The community spirit of Black Country people is described as always willing to help their neighbours. This community spirit is evident in the many local clubs, societies, and charities that exist in the region (Rowland, 2013). My grandfather used to tell me of the regular fist fights outside of our local pubs in the forties and fifties—nothing changed. My great grandfather was a scrapper and a warehouse burglar, all of the family were somewhat questionable: my uncle sold my mothers car without her consent. I even have a ‘Wild Bill’ in my family tree and the locals avoided him; that rosy tint of the Black Country nostalgist really is cheap plastic. You might ask, aren’t Black Country people supposed to be self-deprecating? Everyone had banter in my Black Country jobs, taking the mick out of themselves or others, but there was also a lot of ridicule; such wind-up merchants rarely tolerated it being done back to them. Bullying was not uncommon in my jobs; grown men might scuffle from time to time and do that hard man speel. I even faced threats myself, humiliation, provocation, and mockery from adult men twice my muscular size, and I was sixteen years old. While they targetted me, every other one of those fine Black Country men watched the bullying take place and allowed it. Many of them could have had a kid my age. 

Nelson the bully from the Simpsons

One of the strange behaviours I noticed was the deep voice phenomenon; men who deliberately try to emulate the dialect in an unnatural way. I listened, as this one particular worker spoke, changing his notage, deeper, accentuating the accent. Possibly, this was all done to sound more like a manly, blokey bloke, that ideal ‘Black Country Geezer ’ I really have no idea, I can only guess. It was an invocation of sorts, I guess. What really confused me was how his voice raised a few octaves higher in the car park at the end of the day. I've witnessed this a few times. Black Country people are proud of their heritage and traditions, says Rowland, (2013). Those who liked to garnish their vocalisations might have wanted to honour an imagined abstract of their heritage, others were simply rough, just like many poor individuals from the 1880’s. This pride in heritage is re-kindled in Black Country Day, The Black Country Flag, The Black Country T-Shirt Shop and The Black Country Bugle, but this is reconstructionism of times darker than most of us know or care to admit. Proud Black Country enthusiasts who romance the legacy of honest ‘toil and honour’ ignore occupational exploitation, playing down the impact of desperation and squalor, it breeds cognitive dissonance. We should never forget the animal abuse, drinking problems, crime, immorality, destitution and ruin. The Black Country ethos is a modern complementary caricature not a genuine reflection. 

Region                      2021 | 2022 

Black Country           84.1 | 82.7 

England and Wales  75.5 | 74.9 

An ugly photograph of Brierley Hill High Street
You can see the reality right here; crime in the Black Country is higher than the average for both England and Wales, which has a low enough happiness rating in its own right! In 2022, there were 82.7 crimes per 1,000 people in the Black Country, in comparison to the 74.9 crimes per 1,000 people in both England and Wales. This does not show a sense of community spirit, but rather a problem. I would like to see the Black Country change into something better. The Black Country will never achieve this by  cherry picking history to dress up it's sense of identity. Decent sources of information are available, newspaper archives say a lot about standards in that region's golden age. For instance, in 1860 The Dudley Herald reported on the Black Country problem of human-baiting, a secret horror which did not get too much attention. Baiters paid vulnerable or hard-up people money to fight aggressive dogs and then, they bet on it—this dwarfs owning a XXL Bully! Thomas Smith, fought a dog called Crib for the payment of one pound. He was chained to a post while the dog attacked him. The match was stopped by the police, Smith as well as Crib's owner were arrested. Likewise, in 1850 The Birmingham Journal reported an incident in West Bromwich. A man called George Taylor fought a dog called Spring. Taylor accepted a small sum to be chained to a post and attacked. It happened it Wolverhampton in 1842: The Wolverhampton Chronicle, identified a man called Samuel Webb who fought a dog called Tiger; a 15 minute struggle resulted with Webb taking nasty injuries. 
In 1872, Bilston, The Staffordshire Advertiser printed another snippet about these horrific fights. William Davis was matched against a dog called Billy. The match was also ended by the police, who arrested Davis (The BNA, 2023). I assume, many would consider the real criminals as being  those who facilitated the fight more so than the unfortunates coaxed into accepting these deals. However, everyone broke the law as a result. Desperation drives people with needs to do whatever they must. Before the 19th century, such blood sports in the Black Country involved importing animals such as bears, lions and chimps; can you imagine how horrific those antics became? This regional archetype is not accurate. 






References

Chinn, C. (2002). The Black Country: A history. Sutton Publishing.

Rowland, D. E. (2013). The Black Country: A sense of place. University of Birmingham Press.

Thompson, E.P. (1963). The Making of the English Working Class. Vintage.

Websites:

The BNA (2023): https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Office for National Statistics: [https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/crime-statistics](https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/crime-statistics)

West Midlands Police: [https://foi.west-midlands.police.uk/category/incident-and-crime-statistics/](https://foi.west-midlands.police.uk/category/incident-and-crime-statistics/)





The Modern Occultist

What's an Archetypal 'Modern Occultist'? 

Have you ever wondered what occultists look like these days? 

In reality, if you're writing a book, it would be cool to make your modern occultist someone different to the pale skinned moody satanic goth. Honestly, enthusiasts of the esoteric are a diverse bunch, many of them come across as regular people.


Isn't it all weird and dark? 

Agreed ceremonial rituals and things like divination with presences might seem odd, but the less grand stuff like sigil magick; which, for instance, the comic book legend, Grant Morrison practices as a Chaos Practitioner is most common. Chaos Magick is a late twentieth century movement based on the occult works of the artist Austin Osman Spare. Another common type of magick is found in Wicca and Eclectic or folk magick. In this blog, I'll share a worldview of someone called Baz, a bit of mystical bloke inspired by Hermeticism and Chaos Magick theory. 

Chaos and Hermes symbolism









Pre-determinism is a physical thing: context. 

Our world, according to Baz, is full of pre-determining and competing factors that are diverse and unseen, some of which, we are still unaware. Ten thousand years ago, after developing agriculture, we acquired more free time, and then we invented stuff like writing, as well as mathematics and new technologies. These outcomes manifested because of determining factors, which we often, colloquially call 'fate' today. 

Unusual chaos magick cartoon









Baz is always using his comparison of how we commonly modify our dogs behaviour with food rewards; this is his way of showing how dogs (like other animals) are slaves to their bio-programming. We know how their barking at the door indicates a visitor, we are aware our food causes them to beg. Their actions are predictable. When we learn the biological drives of a creature, we recognise their robot-like perogatives. Even though, we are susceptible to the same rules ourselves. 


That being said, our evolutionary history hit the jackpot; our mind awakened and challenged its own instinctive urges and reactions. We stopped to think and formed disciplined arts. Baz is under the belief that tell tale signs can be seen across time and civilisation of our self awakening. Some cultures call it the divine spark, what ancient Greeks called Synderesis, Quakers call it our inner light, our word 'soul,' originated from Old Saxon 'Sēola'. 


As mentioned above, our sharpened sentience emerged and ancient religious, philosophical and esoteric writings have wrote about it; even science says humans started cooking meat, gaining extra nutrients that served to improve the human cerebral cortex. Our high levels of the foxp2 gene has helped to enable us to communicate complex ideas. Trying my best to avoid sounding like Graham Hancock here, but, it seems that eastern dharmic traditions value thought and experience with the divine. These are perennial themes. 


"Romans 8:16 implies the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit, which is shows there is a spiritual essence within us that is connected to God." 


Baz is a biologist and is quick to remind me that as humans, our bodies are driven by the same essential biomechanical determinants as what we see with animals. This is also part of his occult view: Oxytocin brings us love and desire, with help from Vasopressin, Dopamine, Seratonin, Norepinephrine, Testosterone and Estrogen. Ghrelin is responsible for letting you think you are hungry, it isn't your mind, but the flesh. That inner voice warding off another portion of chips; that's leptin. 


Our anger, shame and self worth, these aspects about who we believe we are; our politics, spiritual convictions, culture or our taste in music, can all be influenced by these pre-determining forces. Fate, is very much the chaos that provides the natural order. It is a blessing that we can choose to discipline ourselves and think. 


Maybe, it could be argued, humanity just turned mentally diagnosable and somewhat increasingly egocentric. Baz doesn't see eye to eye with me on this one! I found support in the words of Arthur Shopenhauer, who thought our suffering is greater than the suffering of animals—did we lose the plot? Well, this German philosopher made an interesting point by saying that all of nature, including our own, is an expression of an unquenchable will. I think he was talking about physical motivators like determining factors that drive desire. 


True, even strict Buddhists might agree with Shopenhauer in principle; possibly mentioning the parable of the thirsty man drinking from the sea, it sort of fits. The colour and fragrance of Buddhas flower, might not be harmed by the bee that gathers nectar, but in our own lust to gain profit, we humans destroy eco-systems, just to produce and sell paper. Human being clearly aren't all wise. 


"Tathagatagarbha Sutra. Good sons, this Dharmakaya of the Tathagata is eternal, permanent, pure, and joyful. It is the self-nature of all beings, the Tathagata embryo. All beings possess this Tathagata embryo, but it is covered by the five skandhas. When this Tathagata embryo is liberated and uncovered, it can comprehend the ultimate reality." 


Wait a second, don't think this is a religious blog or any kind of bleeding heart appeal. Not going there. I'm only sharing hermetic views of a chaos guy called Baz, in relation to predestiny and magick. 


Baz believes human will and indeterminism have something in common; people are inherently irrational but strive to be rational. Human behaviour is not always predictable. Our collective choices and actions influence the course of lives and the world. Timeless pursuits for power and progress are dogs fighting for the bone; it's egocentric and a biology thing more so than anything spiritual. Baz thinks that developments in creativity, commerce, politics and religion, as well as critical thinking have contributed to liberate us from our mental poverty, but it has caused problems. 


Sigil Magick: An Example of Magick. 

Chaos Magick cartoon with a sausage









These things are intent and symbol manipulation. Below is an example of your intent for a sigil. 

THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF INTENT

What we do is cancel out vowels:

THIS IAEXEMPLE OF INTENT

Leaving this:

THS S N XMPL NTNT

Then we reduce it down by chopping off duplicate letters: 

T H S N X M P L 

Now draw a circle and get creative with your letters. This could mean translating them into other symbolic equivalents: Akkadian, Braille, Cuneiform, Dutch, Enochian, whatever, you're in charge. Make your basic sigil:

Example of a Sigil

After this, we might want to simplify again, because the intent has to become symbolic:

Second example of sigilisation

Now you have your sigil, you have to charge it. This can be done in more than one way. Engage with the sigils you make in an altered mental state, it does something. People might choose an empty thoughtless meditative state, others might use intoxicants, or reach musical euphoria, everyone has their own way—again, you're in charge, it's your will. Then, when the time is right, destroy the sigil to release it or try something else.


In Wicca—according to the complete book of witchcraft—sigils seem to be formed in a similar way to Chaos Magick sigils. It's the same letter alteration, manipulating a new form from a statement of intent. Shaping a unique, abstract symbol. In all traditions, the sigil is always charged, be that with energy through a chant, ritual, blood, or meditation, before it's final release to the world. 


Sigil magick is subjective at the end of the day, and quite unverifiable by science; Baz said, 'we don't test the fisherman who reckons he can catch big fish, but we know the fish are present.' No magician can magic their enemies cheek into a vagina, it's not like fiction. Some practitioners believe their efforts influence the crazy undercurrent of the quantum world; there are scientists and philosophers who suspect quantum mechanics and consciousness are somehow connected. However, belief in Mana or Gnostic concepts, such as The Fullness or Abraxas and then we have Goetia and demonic work. Diversity. 

Two men strolling along discussing magick










In Thelemic and Hermetic traditions, sigil creation may likely involve Kabbalistic sephirot, Egyptian or Gnostic ideas. A sigil can mix letters and numbers, including seperate symbols altogether, resulting with a complicated design. 


"The Corpus Hermeticum. What dost thou, father, mean by this? The mind is parted from soul and soul from spirit? Whereas thou said'st the soul was the mind's vesture, and the soul's the spirit." 


A few times, Baz, has insisted to me that no level headed sigilist should waste time trying to defeat the will of a country who have a vested interested in the lottery jackpot. Even with an extraordinary display of will power, faith and magick, winning is very unlikely to happen. Dreams of wealth and prestige are a physical motivation, influencing a win undermines the game. That being said, people have successfully used sigils to attract money in different ways. 


"Katha Upanishad. The Self, smaller than small, greater than great, is hidden in the heart of every creature. A man who is free from desires and free from grief, with mind and senses tranquil, beholds the Self through the grace of the Creator."


Sigils in Chaos Magick might draw from any magical and philosophical or religious system, including Thelemic and Hermetic or Satanic, Celtic, Christian, Lovecraftian or even the power of Loony Tunes. It's said, nothing is true but rather permitted, if you even permit that. Liber Null will tell you, the Chaos Magician is intuitive and experimental; the subjective experience of the practitioner is an alternative any set of rules. 

A cartoon of the blogger


How does will interact will the world? 

However, starting with skepticism, is it fair to say reports of successful sigil magick could have happened naturally anyway? For example, an unlikable person commits a crime, and as a result, a chaos dude magics out some justice, which the law manifests! Looks good, but, on yer bike—let's call this magical interloping. 


The placebo effect is similar, especially, say, if a person sets off a sigil to ease their own depression. The practitioner's belief in the power of the sigil or ritual, can, in fact, lead to changes in behavior, and then, in turn, his environment. This is not magical-interloping, but rather a form of placebo. Placebo's mind over matter, has an inspired belief providing physical and mental outcomes—by definition, a form of magick. But, come on, really? Yes. 


Quantum mechanics is indetermined, existing in the fundamental level. Particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously, there is an inherent randomness in particles and we are still unsure how any of this might affect our world. However, it is smaller than the everyday natural physics we see daily, but increasing evidence suggests our minds may interact with it somehow. This could be pseudo-science, but a respectable line of research could make a great discovery. Speculative, but scientific claims about such things do exist


We can't ignore Chaos Theory of John Nash, which suggests that complex systems, like the weather, ecosystems, and even human behavior, can come across as random and unpredictable over time. It's a kind of semi randomness that'll emerge from multiple interplays between components within a system.

Dark cartoon of a teenager honing his dark wizardry


The observation effect, in physics, shows that to measure or observe fundamental particles causes them to alter their bevaviour into that of waves. The double-slit experiment has shown this repeatedly. The key question: what is the role of the observer in shaping micro-reality? 


A lot of us have a philosophy or a religion, some kind of theurgy and some of us agnostics and atheists enjoy esoteric practices; it's another spiritual path and shouldn't be judged or seen as a threat.



The Contrarian Spirit: Rebels, Intellectuals & Mavericks

The Contrarian Spirit: Rebels, Intellectuals & Mavericks

What is a contrarian? 

Contrarian characters exist across most forms of recorded media, from folklore to Hollywood. I love them. We might see them as trickster-like characters like with the Joker, and his anarchist ramblings, to Marvels Loki, as well as with the court jesters of medieval Europe; it's that maverick characteristic. For better or worse, they test the status quo; often debasing established norms. The have to take a stand against someone or something, oppositional, adversarial even, always striving. 

A jester

Comedians and Jokers... 

The Fool isn't that much of a contrarian archetype, but still can be. It's that oddball who pops up in Shakespeare's plays, those humour wielding jesters, who'll hit near the mark of the most powerful people within the king's court, even the king himself! The Jester eventually became a valued advisor to the Monarch!

Star wars cosplayers






 Renegades, Rebels and Noncomformists! 

My favourite contrarian is to be found in the rebel; a soul driven by a strong will to overthrow what they see as some kind of oppressor or evil. The Rebel Alliance vs the Galactic Empire, but then, there are real people like Erin Brockovich in the world who will take on powerful corporations: even I challenged my own local authority and for something my family needed and we got it, the directors written admission of guilt and apology was the cherry on top. The fight was very consuming, making victory itself feel glorious; indeed, contrarians are quite relatable from my position. 
Erin Brockovich



In reality, the rebel contrarian is also personified by the female emergency worker who exposes the oppressive toxic masculinity or chauvinism in the workplace. Campaigners, protesters and grass roots political petitioners, those who utilise power are rebel contrarians. 

Protesters hoping to save Syria

Iconoclasts, Thinkers, Whistleblowers and Skeptics... 

Intellectual contrarians might also be rebellious, but they are key at spreading the narrative, directing and educating; instead of simply opposing the status quo, they seek to expose faults, or illustrate the corruption of its religions and it's failing systems. In the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of improvement, almost like the Wizardmystic or Sorceress, these intellectuals hone their discipline through rigorous deep thinking and/or academic illumination. I find them fascinating. 

The wonderful Christopher Hitchins

Look at the anti-religious arguments of Christopher Hitchens, he was a brutal polemicist, but fair, and he inspired thought; people enjoyed having their minds opened by him. Jordan Peterson is a similar type of contrarian who would not conform to over the top political correctness or left wing Marxism, as he called it. The world has witnessed the sheer grit and determination of Greta Thunburg, despite harsh press she has not budged from her climate activism. The spirit of these people is that of champions of their causes. They stand in contast to their opposition. 

Contrarian for the sake of being the contrarian...

Some contrarian people are motivated by a desire to define themselves; they might challenge conventional ideas but only for the sake of their club, purpose, brand or simply to be a unique sheep

After contributing my thoughts in a pseudo-religious esoteric facebook group, I was told: 'if you want to keep any street cred, you should take down that post,' simply because it contained science, which was not welcome in that discordianism group. I felt no need to explain how science enabled their silly esoteric Facebook group, so I simply left; curious how science could possibly be considered offensive.



Rule abiders of contrarian clubs... 

Like my Facebook discordian  many oof these strange people present as non-conformist, such as the raving lunatic party, Church of Satan types, parody religions, or flat earth enthusiasts for that matter; who uphold their own club law and may expect people will follow suit. The pseudo-science of the flat earth theory is pushed by its community. 

Contrarians are motivated to oppose something significant. They might independently gather resources, practice critical thinking, as well as keep up-to-date on the latest research to meet challenges. 

The contrarian spirit is defined by that defiant front, which inexorably strives for change or subverting what's wrong with the conventional; defined by the individual struggles they take, they can be harbingers. 

Who is your favourite Contrarian character? 

 

To Become a Trollop: Name Calling To Inspire Betterment

The Trollop: Helly Sourham!

The term 'trollop' is a derogatory name, but seriously, loads of generations have used this word as a humorous expression, admittedly, it is of disapproval, pointing at bad conduct. The opposite of Joan of Arc. Definitely, the word does conjure up a negative vibe, I concede. However, it also serves to encapsulate my semi fictionalised cartoon character, who, in fact, actually meets the criteria of the word!

Smutty cartoon mother saying crude things


The word 'trollop' originated from the word 'troll,' a fourteenth-century French term used to describe a slovenly woman, wandering off in the quest for game. Helly Sourham, did precisely that, cheating on Steven, her husband of twelve years. Throughout the ages 'trollop' evolved and now it generally means a messy tart. 

A vintage depiction of a trollop drawn in pen

Instead of discussing this woman's offensive character, my persistent woke friend, Emmaline, is ceaselessly reiterating her idea that the use of an unkind name like 'trollop' is unnecessary; it kindles unwanted attitudes, she said. Emmaline is quite well-spoken, a tad posh, and delivers her point with class. Using kind words is inclusive. She reckons promoting positivity renders a much more pleasant society. I told her that even the word 'slattern' was interchangeable with 'trollop,' then she scowled at me. It also describes someone who is untidy or slovenly in appearance or habits. 

The biblical Jezebel
Jezebel

We could, you and I, dear reader, entertain Emmaline's well-meaning fluff and argue: yes, we can all acknowledge derogatory language might boost an unfavorable belief toward certain women. We could promote constructive and sensitive dialogue, but surely, not all the time? No! How can our politeness and inclusivity correct bad behaviour?

Cartoon mother speaking about crude inappropriate subjects









If human morality really evolved in natural communities, then evidently; countless people will have necessarily experienced disgrace, guilt or shame for their own societal wrongdoings. Guilt, shame and dishonour do incentivise behavioural modification. If our social principles involve rewarding selfish individuals with inclusivity and kindness, you'll inherit a narcissistic world. Oh! 

The same cartoon female scorned for being corrected


Names are a tried and tested historical intervention, like sinner or criminal, low-life or riff-raff. It doesn't sit well with those gentle-people who reward those who don't deserve it. 

The sterotypical virtuous woman is like mother mary

By definition, Helly Sourham might be a trollop, because she allow's her little ones to play in her poo ridden garden, instead of picking it up. She blames her family for her behaviour; sadly putting demands on her husband, and her mother to mind her little ones, capitalising on breakfast mornings, and after school clubs, notching up their days with ten hours in school. Her children's reading problems, and hatred of the institution, are not considered her concern. Who will sort her out? 

Swaggering cartoon woman trying to be alluring


Even as Steven works long hours, she makes deliberate plans to see other men without him knowing. Her unsupervised children salvaged sweets from across the filthy house where her dogs (with electric collars) defecate and run-in garden dirt! To be fair, the children are mostly nourished by takeaway. 


After boasting to her younger sister about having unprotected sex numerous times with a stranger, she detailed doing the same in the marital bed, with her husband, after returning home the same morning—the strangers bodily fluid was still present. This modern expression of  a 'trollop' knew better, after studying sexual health and contraception.

A specimen pot showing a specimen
The Western World has taken a lot from Judeo-Christian history and culture, including the archetypes of The Whore of Babylon and The Virgin Mary. Even today, the whore and the virgin can serve as a spectrum or a dichotomy on which society often makes subconscious comparisons regarding women and sex. It is harsh and unfair. Where is the man trollop? 

Medieval art depicting old moral virtue


The sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies brought liberation. Normalising the pill was a victory and the vindication of masterbation, sex before marriage, and pornography all rightly challenged patriarchal religion across the Western World. In modern years, people in Chicago and Germany went on so called, 'slut walks' to promote women's rights to dress how they like without male discrimination, and I agree 100%. 

The sexual liberation of women via protest

Helly Sourham, on the other hand, has little respect for people. Badgering her husband to buy her breast implants and a tummy tuck after cheating on him is not in the same spirit as the slut walk! The new surgery body was planned for her holiday to Ibiza in which, Steven never went. He is sadly thought of as a Simp and she limits expenditure on her children but lavishes herself. 

Womens rights movements take to the streets to protest





Helly Sourham has also disrespected herself not only by recklessly avoiding contraception, but also with fad dieting, suffering for her physical appearence at the expense of her loved ones! Surgery and diet pills, don't help. The sexual liberation of the sixties and seventies, meant freedom, it didn't advocate todays bondage of self-criticism! 

Cartoon woman with victim mentality


Agreed, it might be tempting to label Helly as a free-spirited, sexually liberated woman, we can be ignorant of her infidelity, hedonism and toxicity toward her family. Yes, ignorant. Therefore, seeing her as a 'trollop' seems quite forgivable. 

Then again, we don't have to go around calling people names...? 


The Stay at Home Dad

Stay at home day, cartoon, playing with children
When you're a stay-at-home dad, you can break away from those old roles society expects of you, because it's viewed by many as a positive step towards gender equality. However, if you're an unemployed mentally ill husband who only seems to leave the house for the weekly shop and to walk the dog—you're more of a parasite. 


Fair enough, a stay-at-home dad is expected to engage in various activities with the kids, you know, like reading to them, cooking lunch or playing games and whatever, while also keeping tabs on the housework. We all have our ways of working. Once, there was a time, when the entitled breadwinning husband, who expected a pristine house and a hot meal at the table, was the norm. We've known that's sexist for quite a while now.


I'd like to call myself a house-husband, when I think of the water fights against my kids and their friends the street, but, I'd also like to call myself a billionaire, genius philanthropist—it's a stretch. This is where I could just hide from the vane judgements that float around the heads of certain people who mention my name or give you that ****ing dismissive glance that means you're beneath them. In all truth, although the concept of a father who stays at home once grew in popularity, it isn't accepted by all walks of life; from my experiences, even in this age of progressive thinking, politicians expect everyone to work—just turn your disability into an ability, go on! 


I should be the breadwinner, traditionally speaking, easier said, however; the disability status always seems like a cop-out to Joe Blogs, and even myself initially, but health is blatantly honest: pending spinal surgery and eye transplants, foot isssues, hip bursa problems, arthritis and that's my better half! 

Superman variant being cruel anout unemployment

Come to think of it, we had to home school; mainstream educational provision was incompatible with our kids, but they've well surpassed expectations! We had to stay home, nontheless; dark times of severe mental health nearly claimed my daughters life! We watched her drop to six stone, and I remember us having to hide anything sharp, almost 24/7—even checking for broken glass or empty cans when we were out. 


We entertained sending her to a hospital, it was horrific. I'm glad we didn't. Our NHS mental health hospitals were abysmal, and still are. We recovered together, as a family. These things are happening to people right now, even as you read this, across the UK children's and adolescent mental health is faltering, this means the bulk of psychiatric support is left to parents and guardians, who in turn, are being pushed into employment by the ignorant right wing! I was told by a CAMHS nurse that children often self injure in ward, suicides happen she calmly mentioned this, adding that bullying cannot always be prevented! Recent televised documentaries have shown the extent of such failures across children's mental health care. I feel for other parents.


Before those years, when it was plain sailing for us, I remember visiting the disability employment service provider, to try and get back into work. She told me I shouldn't be allowed inside anyone's home! You see, my goal was to assess NVQs for a living, which involved home visits; I only wanted a job. She only saw a 'Bipolar' when she talked at me. She openly characterised 'us all' with her historical anecdotes about working with 'us lot,' as if she had exclusivity over my illness, a thing which had somehow made me a new breed of human known as a 'manic'. She told me that she knew why I struggled with work—it was surreal. It was not bipolarity alone, that's for sure. I think that was a government service that destroyed my path to employment, but I had been building myself up for that meeting for days. 

A man, depressed, sat with a cartoon poop.

Years prior to any diagnosis, I was watching the Sopranos with a nurse on the night shift in a specialised nursing home—everyone was in bed. Tony Soprano was the main character, a mafia boss from New Jersey. He has no choice but to do that job. His criminal life was scary to say the least, but Tony, this tough mobster, was medically depressed; sadness and anxiety messed with his kingpinning, he decided to hide it. Rumours of his depression, pills, instability, involvement from a psychiatrist could have gotten him killed. This show, resonated my past, except the crime part, obviously! Tony Soprano was relatable, given the stigma many of us once faced regardless of background, power or status.
Tony Soprano

However, when I'm low and hating on myself, I start to envision myself as a Frank Gallagher type character, from that TV show, Shameless. Nature of the depressive beast: I'm a teetotaler, nothing like the man. A depressed mind will almost always attack itself. 
Frank Gallagher

Like Frank, I share fears around workplace performance, in fact I struggle with employment. A while ago, my doctor told me I have a kind of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); this, as well as the bipolarity, explains a few thing; the work based trauma. Well, life's just that for most of us, isn't it? How we prioritize mental health and seek support isn't straightforward. You might acquire a troublesome coping mechanism such as, drinking a few pints of beer or smoking a spliff before going into the dreaded workplace environment; also, pulling another sicky, or getting benzos from off the doctor. 


You can practice Buddhist mindfulness as much as you like; it won't kill that pending doom, the morbid dread, which all affect your inability to concentrate or listen. Those unshakable morbid feelings as you try to go in to work are vile. Maintaining good mental health is crucial 'they say'. If I could have behaved more like a regular Joe during the onset of my mood disorder as a teenager, I would have never been bullied by those philistines in that industrial nightmare. 

Cartoon of a man crushed by a rock

Cowardly men watched me being bullied by other adults; I was sixteen years old. On two occasions, grown men of the same scummy clique molested me, one low-life squeezed aggressively—unspeakable embarrassment, shame, and physical pain. All day, everyday, this group ridiculed and mocked me. I was flashed and threatened by adult men. My self respect diminished. 

Genital based political cartoon









I eventually discussed the situation with my father, who encouraged me to very much continue going in, and to win their respect. There were skills to be had, to secure my future. Many of us were made redundant after a few months, including myself. I was delighted! Funnily enough, I got a job with my dad. One random day within my first several months of commencing the job, a worker anxiously came running towards me to say my dad had taken a full on sucker punch to the face. He was taken off site! His face was like a balloon. Such thuggery, I thought, seemed to surround the working class.


His company had treated him terribly during every decade of his loyal service. As you might expect, none of this helped me develop any faith in the employment sector. Sadly so many like me will struggle in this financial climate. When I think of those poor souls worse off than I am, it looks bleak; suicide rates will undoubtedly increase, while self esteem and income continue to fall.

Classism based cartoon
Or the unemployed poor man?






Was Merlin Historical?

Dive into the legend of Merlin! Was he a real advisor to a king, or a figment of imaginative storytelling? Explore historical records, captivating Arthurian myths, and the TV dramatisation of Bernard Cornwell's excellent book trilogy.


Don't you just love the madness and magic of Merlin? The granddaddy of sorcerers, the true archetypal wizard, the wild man of prophecy. He has so many presentations, however, his history is primarily arcane! 

Merlin in a circle
Merlin is fittingly portrayed as a feared druid and a crazy old oracle to the Britons of Dumnonia in Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles. This is a romantic figure glorifying a lost mysterious celtic way of life. Of course, it's very unlikely a man matching our modern vision of Merlin has ever existed; history doesn't always meet our expectations.


'I believe the Gods hate to be bored, so I do my best to amuse them. That way they smile on me. Your God,’ Merlin said sourly, ‘despises amusement, demanding grovelling worship instead. He must be a very sorry creature' 

Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King


I can imagine Merlin's prototype as a real living druid, or a bard, maybe a madman, all from the Romano-British period. It was Geoffrey of Monmouth who fictionalised Merlin with the trappings of wizardry in modern fantasy. It's almost always conflict that teases out names of potential interest. 

Painting of Merlin looking Moses-like

The fifth and sixth centuries were war ridden. In the east and south, Germanic Tribes who we call Anglo-Saxons founded their kingdoms. Some Britons resisted in the west and north, they also fought themselves—others assimilated into the Germanic way of life. 

 

In popular media, Merlin is often a priceless asset to Arthur and his followers, because of his magical prowess, and foresight. In reality, though, there isn't any evidence to suggest such meetings! All sources for Merlin are post 12th century, but we know some are alleged to be copies of 10th century manuscripts. They were written hundreds of years after the events.

Romano British helmet artifact
Romano-British Crown and Diadem: Norfolk

Be that as it is, I do like Merlin's defiance; it endures and not just against the Germanic invaders or Mordred's ambitions, but his stubborn defiance toward Derfel and Arthur. The semi demented wizard can appear quite vulnerable but secretly he's deceptively sharp minded because we forget he is a magician. His powers from shape changing to flight are later tweaks to the character by medieval writers. 


In earlier Welsh manuscripts, like the 'The Red Book of Hergest' and 'The Black Book of Carmarthen' Merlin, written as Myrddin Emrys, Wyllt or Merlinus Caledonensis, wasn't a prime 'Sword in the Stone' Disney type wizard, but a crazy bard and prophet, with a sound knowledge of nature.


After a major loss during the battle of Arthuret, Carlisle. This Myrddin (Merlin), was born circa 540 and went mad, totally losing it!! He ran away into the forest where he lived as a wild man, a bit like King Nebuchadnezzar or maybe John the Baptist. Bards were just beneath Druids for the Britons. Maybe Myrddin would have retained some social significance. 

Painting of Merlin looking Norse

The contradictions that define modern and proto-Merlin's says to me, there was historical inspiration for medieval historical fiction writers like Monmouth. I've barely touched the surface. Other Merlin names from records are:

1. Ambrosius

2. Emrys

3. Myrddin

4. Merlinus

5. Merdinus

6. Merdinn

7. Merlin Ambrosius

8. Merlin Caledonensis

9. Merlin Silvestris

10. Merlinus Arturius

Even if he never existed at all, the stories surrounding Merlin bring our attention to the historical context of the era: like the hunger for territory, for instance, supernatural belief, Celtic in-fighting, religious tension, Irish piracy and of course the Anglo-Saxon wars. For me, personally, Geoffrey of Monmouth's development of Merlin and his other heroes most likely characterised the spirit of such a past, a zeitgeist. It's comparable to Gandalf, from Tolkien's legendarium, whose name was taken from the Völuspá of the Poetic Edda's. Above all, Gandalf is a reinvigoration himself, a modern shape shifted expression of the old one eyed runemaster himself, Odin, the wanderer and prime god of the vikings. 


Arthurian characters have had their fair share of reboots and retcons; the wild man Myrddin, Derfel the warrior and, the warlord, Arthur; they've all differed over the centuries. We may never uncover an exact history. It's up to us as individuals to make up our own minds

*Update*

The latest depiction of Merlin in the recent Winter King TV show, is portrayed by a person of a different heritage to the archetypal Merlin and discontent has rained down across review websites. Cornwell and supporters of the casting choice forwarded the case that the Winter King took place very shortly after the Romans left Britain. Cool. It is a respectable theory that people of colour were in Roman ranks. However, the times are off. Rome withdrew in 410 CE, but the story is set in the latter part of the fifth century continuing into the sixth, generations later. After generations of breeding with the native women Merlin, would have most likely resembled his archetype. The apologetics fail, leaving doubt that the casting was nothing other than a bending of the knee to modern inclusivity and wokism

The evidence proving the presence of African or Romano-African soldiers, individuals or black communities is lacking—yet, this doesn't mean they did not exist.  Bede, Gildas and Tacitus are highly sourced historical writers who Bernard Cornwall must have used to shape The Winter King, but I cannot find anything in their sources online or in my own books. Eitherway, this avenue doesn't need exploration, Bernard Cornwell originally did Merlin traditionally in print, but then, sold the character off, which is what good authors are supposed to do, to be fair. 

The most disappointing thing is the insensitivity of hinting at Merlin's Roman ancestry; Rome massacred the druids at Anglesey, we lost all knowledge of druidic celtic briton, they violated Boudicca and subdued many more. However, druidry is still mysticised because of the absent history. The druids are meaningful and retain significance, and interest, not only in Arthurian legend, but culturally and historically. Cornwell's printed Merlin, is a thoughtful portrait on multiple layers; a man trying to restore the old ways, he carried loss, and struggled within his political, social, and religious landscape as an old schemer, stubbornly fighting his battles against the Saxons and Christians.The Winter King televised series should not have deviated from the written ethos. 

Cartoon of Merlin predicting Disney ruining Star Wars


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