Or, how a group of magicians went to the fairground to deeper understand the nature of Illusion and to become its masters. A Bank Holiday Special for you.
The fairground is a shabby run-down permanent site left behind in the post-industrial economic catastrophe that is South Wales. The beach, though, is fabulous, and in the distance the ebb tide glitters in the grilling noonday Bank Holiday sun. August being truly … well, august.
We have an element of Metamorphosis in the choice of venue: to varying degrees we all detest the fairground and most haven’t been to one in decades. But today we shall share the illusion.
The six of us gather at the gates and ask the Opener of the Way to aid us in our intent to understand and master Illusion. The O.O.T.W. is of course Papa Legba. So we circle and chant his name and call upon him as I sign simple versions of his vévé onto the ground in our midst. At some point we agree that Papa has joined the party.
We head in to the carousel for the Banishing Rite. We climb aboard our Magic Roundabout, spreading ourselves around the rim of the circle of horses. As the merry-go-round starts off, each begins the Gnostic Pentagram Ritual, howling out the vowels against the tacky pop music of the ride and smearing pentagrams across the revolving landscape. We’re getting some funny looks, but what can anyone do to a moving carousel? I just about finish in time. The fairground is Banished. Looks it too.
In high spirits we head to the rollercoaster, called the Mighty Mouse. Now who is it that has a Mouse as His vehicle? Yes, Jai Ganesha! We get seated, ready to use the adrenaline of the ride to charge our chanted Ganesha mantra and visualization of the god as we hand him an obstacle we’d like removed from our lives. Soror Brigantia is doubling down on the Metamorphosis here, as she experiences serious vertigo.
The ride begins gently enough, hauling us to the top. Naturally on beginning a journey, I’m Aum Gam Ganapataye namaha, visualization up. Then at the top it turns seriously white-knuckle, with hugely abrupt quarter turns throwing us about the carriages. At every turn I feel like we’re going to fly off the rails and afterwards I’m somewhat disbelieving that we didn’t. The illusion of being in danger when we’re actually being tightly controlled. Lesson One of the day.
I’m keeping the mantra and visualization going, gods know how. That obstacle is fucked, I can tell you. One last violent pirouette and the carriage comes to a halt. With a final salutation we crawl out. Soror Brigantia has trouble walking and is shaking slightly, but she comes away with a lesson: she confirms that sticking to your mantra helps your concentration to the extent of taking down a panic attack.
The Un-Fair, Part One: Will The Penny Drop?
We take a break from things that move, and head for the arcade games. Our eyes were caught by the Penny Drop machine, all silvery glitter, coins and ’50’s jazz artwork. It’s a coin push: drop a coin in amongst the coins inside and see if the moving slides will shunt some coins over the Tipping Point and back to you. The goal here is to experience the difference between the promise of prizes and the reality of merely feeding your money into The Machine.
The decoration may not have been updated since the fifties but the machinery has. It’s now a Tenpence Drop. Inflation, eh? A handful of coins is gone in moments. I didn’t even win any to feed back into The Machine. Says it all, doesn’t it?
Just to nail it in though I have a go on the Claw Grab, where the claw is obviously too weak to grip the prizes to drop them down the chute to you. Penny has dropped: The Machine is Un-Fair.
The Ghost Train. We’re spooky magicians, right? This should be right up our dark alley. We prepare to salute Papa Ghede on the Ghost Train, but it’s Odin who’s running the ride. A man with indeterminate North-or-East European accent asking us if we’re ready.
“Are you sure?”
Soror Brigantia assures me that the ride has not changed AT ALL since she visited it as a child. We’re chanting Papa Ghede’s name loudly enough to be heard outside, and he’s inside my head taking the piss out of it all the way through. We come back out louder than we went in, and Odin looks at us as if we’re mad.
Now for the Waltzer. We have each identified an Intention, a thing we’d like to see in our world. We’re going to do the Vortex Rite in each of the two cars we occupy. A-B-C: we use the adrenaline of the ride to open the Vortex, project our Intention through it and close. Couldn’t be simpler.
Despite the enthusiastic attention of the kid spinning the cars, I complete satisfactorily, but it was a real test of concentration. Then I get out to see that one of our number in the next car is having a full-on panic attack and is shaking as though having a fit. This was clearly a Metamorphosis too far for her. The kid had gone white and disappeared. We get our sister away from the Waltzer and a fairground staff member arrives.
“Do you need a paramedic?”
No, but do you have an exorcist on standby? Oh wait, that’s me. So I take our sister through a grounding to shed the excess energy and then a fairly lousy cup of brown. She’s made of quite stern stuff and recovers quickly. Meanwhile …
The Un-Fair, Part Two: Gaming the Sideshows.
The others take on some more rigged games, such as the get-the-rubber-ball-in-the-bucket where the ball is far too bouncy to stay in. Soror Brigantia has found a throwing things game where you get a big prize if you win but a little prize if you fail. She’s gaming The System by actually gunning for the little prize. The little prizes they all come back with are small cuddly toys which are already showing signs of magical sentience. Puppet magic.
Going to the Fun House with Eris was a disappointment, with no amusing mirrors and just a load of minor obstacles, some of which were out of order. One which was working was the Hamster Wheel, unsurprisingly. Another Lesson there. I took great pleasure in stepping smoothly off the Hamster Wheel. Non serviam. Hail Eris!
It’s been unexpectedly tiring, and the others step out of our next ride. It’s basically cars spinning across a flat trajectory, so we call it the Spider, and our objective is to visualize our chosen future and weave a web of Wyrd during the ride, charged, as usual, with the energy raised by the ride. It’s just me and Soror Brigantia bawling out incantations of the future we shall see unfold.
Spirits are high again as we all set off for the beach, half a dozen mostly middle-aged people laughing and dancing, and the younger fairgoers point and stare. But we’re on a mission.
Imagine a Star of Chaos superimposed on a map of Wales. Soror Brigantia has a long term project of burying an Arrow of the Star of Chaos at each of the extremities, and where we are is tolerably near the southernmost, Yellow Arrow point. We’ll light and bury a pointy yellow candle on the beach.
It’s a big beach. we march down it, looking for a significant spot, and we find this:
Pentagram marks the spot. We surround it, dig, light candle, and chant again to the Opener of the Way, for Papa Legba to open the crossroads of magic in Wales and to close our afternoon’s work. And we finish with the IAO banishing.
And so it is done.