Do what you will this life’s a fiction, and is made up of contradiction. Wm Blake.
The “King Arthur” £23 note, designed by Eric Drass
So that was it, all the elements were in place for a magnificent and fun-filled day of ritual action.
I’d always said there were three purposes behind it.
Firstly, we hoped to start a debate about the origins of money and the process of money creation, and I had some Positive Money leaflets with me to hand out in order to get that idea into people’s heads.
Secondly, we could regard it as Situationist street theatre, a piece of radical agitprop art designed to disrupt people’s perception of reality. I mean: magical rituals on the streets of London, how often do you see that?
But finally, I would always add, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, it might actually work, we might actually change the world with our magic; to which Jon Harris had replied, emphatically: “Well I believe that it will!”
So that was the spirit we took to the event; one of playful reverence for the mysteriousness of the unknowable Universe, a willingness to play and be played upon, to allow the energy to take us where’er it will. We would believe in what we were doing, whether we believed it or not. And if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, well so be it. No one ever said that life was going to be consistent.
Me: I have no problem believing and not believing at the same time. I’m good at that. I can hold two entirely contradictory thoughts in my head and believe them both, and still not get confused.
The Eastern Dragon, south side of London Bridge
We met at the Eastern dragon on the South side of London Bridge, which seemed a good place to start. It definitely felt like a gate, with the two dragons, one on either side of the road, standing to attention at the entrance to the City.
It was a blustery, cold day, with low, fast-moving clouds and occasional bursts of brightness.
Arthur and I arrived late, having missed each other at London Bridge station. The group was already there, waiting expectantly.
I leapt up on the plinth of the dragon and made the introductions. Now here’s the thing: I hadn’t considered this as a place to make speeches from when we’d done our reconnaissance, but it was the perfect spot. You could almost imagine it had been placed there deliberately for just this moment.
One of the things about ritual magic is that no matter how many times you rehearse it in your head, on the actual day it has a life and a will of its own.
I swear I was sucked into a vortex from the moment I jumped up on that ready made podium and read my speech: a kind of bubble of bright energy which engulfed us all and kept the mundane world at bay.
After I got down from the podium, I spoke to Julian Vayne.
I’d made up a little story about the dragons, which I repeated to him. It goes like this. All the dragons on the outskirts of the city, guarding the gates, are male (although, it had to be said, they have peculiar, squared-off, truncated organs); the dragon at the heart of the City, however, in the mosaic floor of the Bank of England, depicted being speared by St. George, is more sinuous and alive, and might well be female. So my story is this: having killed off the female dragon, the male dragons are made bereft and controllable, which is why they can be used as guardians.
I told Julian I’d made it up, and he told me that he thought it was true.
After I’d told Jon Harris the same story, a few weeks before, he’d asked the concierge at the Bank of England what sex the dragons were. The guy had blinked in surprise, and his jaw had dropped slightly. He’d never been asked that question before. “I have no idea,” he said, looking at Jon as if he was a mad person making faces at him.
Meanwhile Arthur Pendragon was transforming himself from a biker to a King, by the simple expedient of putting on his robes and his circlet, and passing his leather jacket on to me.
The reverse of the King Arthur £23 note. It reads: The sum total of all wealth in the world is the sum total of all human activity, paid and unpaid, through all time on this planet. Therefore, we say, it must be free
I had a wad of “King Arthur” £23 notes, which I was handing out, and copies of the Positive Money leaflet. The idea was that if members of the public showed an interest in what we were doing, we would pass these on to them.
After that we began our journey over the bridge to the first venue: the space behind the Monument to the Great Fire of London on Monument Street.
We formed a circle and Arthur lead the Druid’s vow:
We swear by peace and love to stand,
Heart to heart, and hand in hand,
Mark oh Spirit and hear us now,
Confirming this, our sacred vow.
We said that three times, holding hands, after which Jon Harris lead his ritual, which went something like this:
“All Hail The Staff!” he said, raising his staff, in the air.
(“All Hail The Staff!” we replied, getting into the spirit of the occasion. And whether this actually happened or not, I want you to imagine that whenever Jon raised his staff and said those words, we repeated them in the manner of call and response in the style of The Old Time Religion.)
So here are Jon’s words, as nearly as we can remember them:
“Looking at the Monument we should remember that a big powerful fire starts from the smallest of flames.
“Today we are here in the presence of The Staff (All Hail The Staff!) and our King to ignite our souls with the spirit of loving forgiveness. Let this fire grow within us, and spread across the City and beyond. Let it engulf us with its flames.
“Don’t fear the scale of this task. We have magic on our side. And more than that, today, here, we have a Holy Trinity of Magic!
“First: above all things, we are in the presence of The Staff (All Hail The Staff!) returned from the three highest points in this land: Snowdon, Scafall Pike and, just a few weeks ago, the mighty Ben Nevis. Such a perilous journey was undertaken not because I wanted to take The Staff to the summit of these mountains, nor was it because The Staff needed to be on top of these mountains, but rather it was because the mountains themselves wanted to be beneath The Staff. (All Hail The Staff!)
“Second: for ten long years I have burned money by myself on the 23rd of October every year. This year, just two weeks ago, that sacred ritual took place at the Cockpit Theatre, just a few miles to the West of here. This time I was not alone. Twenty three of us burned that night. Much currency was put to the flame. And here today I have the sacred ashes of that Holy Sacrifice.
“Thirdly: The Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Arthur Pendragon has come to London. He has returned to lead his children home, to take us to the New Jerusalem: to forgive us our debts.
“With this Holy Trinity of Magic we will create the world anew.
“ And so, today, I offer you anointment. And because it is such a special day, you may touch The Staff (All Hail The Staff!)”
And taking out a little clay pot in which was housed the ashes from his recent burning, Jon proceeded to go around the circle and to anoint the Pilgrims on the forehead, who bowed their heads in supplication, touching The Staff with reverence, repeating these words from the Prayer of Prayers:
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
After that we made our journey to the next sacred spot, the small piece of ground in front of the Royal Exchange, over the road from the Bank of England. We stood behind the Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, where Julian Vayne and Nikki Wyrd took over. Don’t ask me why, but I have the feeling those might be pseudonyms.
I’d met both of them a couple of years before at the Ways with Weirds event in Cornwall organised by our good friend Ru Callender. Both of them are practising magicians, and Julian’s had been the first name I’d thought of when I was contemplating this event.
It was Julian who had explained the meaning of my new favourite word to me: sigil.
A sigil (from the Latin sigillium, meaning “seal”) is a symbol used in magic.
The aim – I think – is to design the sigil to reflect what it is going to be used for, and then to place one’s intent into it before employing it in the rite.
I’d already decided by then that money itself is the sigil by which which our overlords control us and bend us to their will.
This is why we’d created the £23 notes: as a counter-sigil, which we could deploy to undermine the effects of the money-sigil in our pockets.
I’ve written about that here, in our original mission statement, which I’d read out at the Cockpit on the 23rd of October.
So Julian had designed a sigil which he called “The Equaliser”. It was a combination of three symbols: the less than sign <, the more than sign >, and the equals sign =. Put together they create this:
The Chinese character for the well: eight fields surrounding a central well-field
He and Nikki had activated the symbol prior to our gathering today.
I told Julian that it reminded me of the Chinese character for the Well. It represents eight fields surrounding a central well, and was the basic structure of ancient Chinese society: eight families, all sharing the same water. It is a symbol of a shared resource, belonging to no one, but used by everyone; a symbol, perhaps, for how we envisage money should be.
(In our modern, Western world, of course, one person would own the well, and would be rich, and everyone else would have to pay to use the well, and would be poor.)
Julian held the sigil aloft and told us what it meant, after which we were instructed to take out our money, which we did, and, using our intent, and our imagination, and our will-power, to focus the sigil into our money, while chanting the following words as a spell.
“Less than, more than, equal – less than, more than, equal – less than, more than, equal -” over and over again, until, by sheer repetition, by concentration and by will-power, the money would be imbued with the magical intent: after which, Julian told us, the money should be spent into the economy, thus spreading the spell into the money system and undermining it from within.
And if you’d like to participate in this rite, you can. You can join us in your imagination. You can say those words, as we did, and direct your will, as we did, and, if you like, draw a little copy of the sigil on all your notes from now on, before spending the spell into existence and breaking the power of the money-lords, who until now have held us all in their dark net of magic.
£100 in £5 notes, collected one day before they went out of circulation
I was also carrying £100 in old £5 notes, which – sychronistically – I’d withdrawn from the bank on the very last day before they were taken out of circulation.
We now have polymer notes which don’t burn half so well as paper fivers, and which give off a noxious fume when they are lit. They are also marked with the face of the racist imperialist Winston Churchill, instead of the much more benign face of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer.
The idea was that we were going to put these fivers into the Bank of England. Instead of burning them ourselves we were allowing them to destroy them instead. By doing this we were planting our spell into the heart of the money-system, into the very place where, according to the mosaic design on its floors, St George had killed the female dragon, and ensnared the male dragons into slavery, who were now forced to become the guardians at the gates to the City. Dragons, remember, are renowned for hoarding treasure, and we want to set them free; along with the wealth they have secreted in caves all these centuries, in bank-accounts and bullion stores, in off-shore holdings in tax-havens around the world.
Anyway, Julian, Nikki and I moved away from Wellington’s statue to the War Memorial in front of the Royal Exchange (from the war monger to the victims of war) where we chanted over and enchanted the £5 notes with the magical sigil again; before I took them into the bank to exchange them for five crisp new £20s; which I then handed over to Eric Drass for the cost of printing the King Arthur £23s. Thus did the money go round as it is supposed to.
Have I told you how I love these people yet? I do. All of them. It’s like I’ve found my peer group at last, people as crazy, wild and absurdly optimistic as me; people willing to experiment, to be creative, to jump in feet first and ask questions later; to be spontaneous when needs be, but to be reflective also; to be dangerous and kind, brilliant and thoughtful, heavenly and hell-for-leather; to be measured when measurement matters, but expansive and imaginative too; willing to seek out the dark places and not be afraid, but loving the light that gives us life and never forgetting we are guests on this planet, and only ever passing through.