Money, Magic and the Imagination – part IV

A “King Arthur” £23 note, which we handed around liberally on the 7th Nov.

One of the gravest errors you can make is to assume that all the thoughts in your head belong to you. They don’t. They can come from all sorts of weird places: from the Ego or from the Id, from the media propaganda machine, from other people’s thoughts and feelings (including sometimes from people you don’t know), from the Earth and the Sky, from demons, gods and goblins, or from the very fabric of the Universe itself.

The trick is being able to tell the difference.

One of the surest ways to judge if a thought has meaning or not is if you notice it is “in the air”: that is, when other people seem to be having the same thought at the same time. Assuming it’s not a propaganda meme (which you have to learn how to spot) then it’s a fair bet it might have originated from some deep place in the cosmos.

Such was the case for the thoughts that lay behind Monday’s ritual events. Not only was I hearing other people expressing ideas that aligned with my own, but, when I mentioned it to friends they “got it” straight away, and were immediately enthusiastic. After that: well the Universe just seemed to conspire to make it come true.

It all goes back to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Everybody with half a brain must have realised that something had gone seriously awry with our world in those few months. Something we had taken for granted – the money-system – had gone all wobbly on us, and what has followed is almost a decade of pain and austerity for the great mass of humanity, and increasing wealth for the elite.

Now here’s an odd thing. I tried thinking about money and discovered that it is really, really difficult. There are all sorts of knotty problems in there, which are hard to get your head around. It’s like language: so close to us it’s hard to get a perspective. I mean, do you have any idea what the past participle is? I don’t, and yet I use it with perfect ease, having been born a native to my tongue. It’s the same with money. Try thinking about fractional reserve banking for a second. It’s something we are born into and understand instinctively, without knowing precisely how it works.

So I tried reading up on it.

Anyone who has ever looked inside an economic textbook will know that this is virtually impossible. Economic textbooks are designed to ensure that ordinary people can’t read them.

Luckily there’s a group of renegade economists out there, willing to blow the gaff.

One of them is Michael Hudson, President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street Financial Analyst and Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

I heard him on an internet radio station one day, and he was so lucid, and his explanations so clear and so simple, that I took to reading pretty well everything by him I could find.

One of the things I discovered was this little book, which you can read and download for nothing. It’s called The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt Cancellations.

In it he points out that in Bronze Age times Kings had the right to cancel debt. Which they often did, either on their birthday, or on New Year’s Day, as a gesture of economic renewal. It was known as a “Clean Slate” and there is an immense record of clay tablets from the Middle East which show that it was a regular practice in those distant times.

In the days before standing armies, Kings depended on their peasants to make up the infantry, and would make these occasional gestures of solidarity in order to stay popular. In the Bible, however, the practice was formalised into Law, and there are whole passages of the pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) dedicated to this.

It was known as a Jubilee. Here is an example, from Leviticus 25: 8-13:

On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.”

It is a declaration of debt forgiveness and an end to debt slavery. In the fiftieth year, the Jubilee year, every bondsman or woman would be freed in order to return to their own lands, whose title reverted to the original owners again.

The importance of this principle is evident in the Lord’s Prayer (actually a very ancient Jewish text which pre-dates Christianity by several centuries):

The line “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us” should actually read “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us.”

The word “redemption” – which I had always understood as a spiritual word – turns out to have an economic root as well. It means to buy back what you once owned. Archaically it means to release someone from debt slavery: slavery imposed in lieu of payment on a debt. The “redeemer” of the Old Testament, the Messiah, was actually a prince who would forgive debts and free the slaves.

It’s odd that many of those in the American establishment who claim to speak for the Bible have forgotten this, one of its most important founding principles. The quotation on the Liberty Bell, for instance, is from the passage I quoted earlier: Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and to all the inhabitants thereof . The “Liberty” it refers to is liberty from debt and debt-servitude. Not political liberty. Liberty from banks.

Anyway, that was where I got the idea from: to get my very good friend King Arthur Pendragon to make a proclamation forgiving all debt.

If the Bronze Age Kings could do it, I thought, why not our own Biker King of the Gypsy Underclass?

But that’s all it remained for many years: an idea in my head.

Later, during the last election campaign in 2015, I was up in London talking to someone from the Daily Mirror about a possible column in one of their on-line magazines.

I met him at One Canada Square, one of the large corporate buildings in Docklands.

We talked about Arthur, who was the prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Salisbury at the time, and he suggested we could set up a publicity stunt by getting Arthur to come to Docklands and do a ceremony.

He said, something like: “Because this is where the dragon is buried.”

He meant, the dragon of unregulated Capitalism.

Unfortunately Arthur was too busy with his campaign to be able to take time off to get to London, but the idea remained and merged with the other idea, about a proclamation.

Then earlier this year another good friend, fellow writer John Higgs, told me that Alan Moore was interested in meeting Arthur, having read our book.

That meant one of three things: Alan Moore going to Salisbury, Arthur going to Northampton, or the two of them meeting somewhere in between.

That’s when the idea of reviving the dragon ceremony in the heart of London came back to me. Only not in Docklands, I thought, which is a new development, but in the City of London itself, which is where the historical beast is really buried.

They even have dragons there, as I remembered from a David Icke YouTube video I’d seen once: him pointing up at one of the dragons, telling us how this proved that the Illuminati were all Reptilians.

Very quickly the idea began to grow. Not just Arthur. I thought: why not get a bunch of practising magicians along to take part in the ceremonies with us?

So that’s where my main ritualists came from: practising magicians I happen to know, John Constable, also known as John Crow, Julian Vayne and Nikki Wyrd, quickly followed by Jon Harris, “The Money Burning Guy”, who John Higgs knew from a few years back.

All Hail, The Staff ! Photo of Jon Harris burning money at Festival 23 y Dan Sumption
All Hail, The Staff ! Photo of Jon Harris burning money at Festival 23 by Dan Sumption

It turned out that I already knew Jon, and that he owed me a pint.

We all met together, those of us who could make it, in the George Inn, Southwark, near John Crow’s house.

That’s when I discovered that the thought that I had nursed in my head for half a decade or more didn’t really belong to me.

It was an idea which had been biding it’s time, waiting for the right moment to emerge, and right now was that moment.

Everyone loved it and committed themselves to taking part in the project. John Crow took us to Crossbones graveyard, which is where his own personal story began, after which we took a walk through the City of London.

That was in early September.

We tried several dates on for size. I suggested Samhain, October 31st, as the Celtic New Year, but John Crow was busy with his last ever Halloween of Crossbones. We thought about November 5th, the day of the now annual Million Mask March, which seemed apt given that the mask they all wear is based upon Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta; but that was a Saturday and we decided it would make more sense to do it when the Bank of England was open. Finally we decided to make it the nearest weekday after the 5th: Monday the 7th November.

I was due to give a talk in London at Caroline Whimsy Westbury’s Nova Stella Nights in the Castle in Farringdon (which I highly recommend) only I’d forgotten when it was supposed to be.

Jon Harris and I decided we needed to take a look at the City again, to work out where the various rituals spots should be and we agreed on the 11th of October. This turned out to be the same day as the Nova Stellar event. This was just one of a number of significant synchronicities that aided our enterprise.

That decided it. Nova Stella would be the day of our first announcement, to the Pagan, Wiccan and Druid community of London.

The next synchronicity was that someone at the event (I’ve forgotten your name I’m afraid) informed us that, according to some calculations, the 7th of November is considered to be the Celtic New Year’s Day, being exactly half way between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

So New Year’s Day it was then, one of the days that the Bronze Age Kings would traditionally use to announce a Clean Slate.

Another synchronicity was that Jon Harris had himself already been invited to take part in an event exploring the meaning of money. This was Daisy Campbell’s spoken word piece in the Cockpit Theatre on the 23rd of October, “Poetry Can F*ck With Your Finances”. Jon made sure that I was on the guest list, and Daisy asked me to make an announcement of our event that night.

I think everyone who was there that evening will agree that Daisy and Jon between them made us really contemplate the true meaning of money: Daisy with her choice of words from Hakim Bey,  Heathcote Williams  and Jon Harris’s own Money Burners Manual, and Jon with his awe-inspiring money burning ceremony. I don’t think I’m being immodest if I say that the words to our mission statement, which I’d composed only a few days before, fitted the evening to perfection.

That was another reminder that the thoughts I’d had didn’t only belong to me. Apparently they’d been going on inside Daisy Campbell’s head too; as well as in Hakim Bey’s and Heathcote Williams’ before us.

Taking part in Jon’s money burning ceremony remains one of the defining moments in my life.

What Jon has done is to bring back a very ancient idea, and to update it for the modern world. The idea is that of ritual sacrifice. In ancient times this could be an animal, or even a human being. But money makes a much better sacrifice, in that it can represent anything, and yet it hurts no one.

The sacrifice is yours’ and yours’ alone.

As for the argument – which I’ve heard – that you could make the sacrifice by giving it to a charity: that’s not the same thing. Giving money to a charity is not making a sacrifice, it is spending the money, albeit on a good cause. Burning money is an out-and-out sacrifice.

Burning money destroys money, but it doesn’t destroy the value that it represents. The value remains. That is the deep secret behind money burning, at least as I understand it.

Value is eternal. It never goes away.

You make the sacrifice. You burn the potential that the money gave you. In my case I’d saved up a £20 note which I’d had pinned on my bookshelves for several weeks. I could see it from my computer, so that I really felt it belonged to me. I brought it down every so often, held it in my hands and spoke to it. I imagined all the things I could spend it on, while reminding myself that its destiny was as a sacrifice. Thus it became very personal to me. It wasn’t just a £20 note. It was my own personal sacrifice.

Money burning is like a prayer. It is a way of making a connection to the deeper parts of yourself, focusing on something that really matters. In my case I was focussing on our Nov 7th New Year’s Day Ritual. I was willing it to become all the things I’d imagined it to be.

Another little synchronicity is that I decided to ask my good friend from Whitstable, Jon Eldude to come along. Jon is an anarchist, partly disabled because of his recurring epilepsy, but very open minded and with a good heart, being deeply committed to the struggle for justice.

November the 7th turned out to be his birthday.

You can read about Jon here.

And one last synchronicity: or at least a very good idea. A friend of Daisy’s, Cat Vincent, told me a little folklore on the night of the Cockpit event. He said we were to ask permission of the dragons before we entered. We were to recite the motto of the City, “Domine dirige nos” (which means “Lord guide us”) while using the finger of one hand to mark out the coat of arms of the City on the palm of the other: a large cross in the middle with a small cross in the corner.


Part V


  1. Hi John,
    reading carl Jung. He calls it synchronicity…
    how come I was so lucky to meet you and Katy
    and have such an amazing Halloween at crossbones…

    . John *


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