The elevating thought

The Anima locus is the soul of a place, a soul or spirit which forms a personality. Through sound recording, meditation and painting I have rediscovered that which I once knew.

Stones, natural springs, trees, herbs, birds, animals, hills, valleys, mountains, islands, and even urban conurbations all have this soul present. Exploring sounds, sights, smells, words, song and feelings. An animist worldview.

My work here is exploring the atmosphere that is intrinsically present at each site I work with. It is also to do with the season and on occasion a specific day or time that I have chosen. Each of these explorations can only happen once. Even a return on another day or the same day a year later would naturally yield very different results for a multitude of reasons.

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Equinox 2016ce

I shall begin with the town in which I live, Christchurch in Dorset.

The Elevating though was recorded on the site of the Priory in the town center on the Vernal equinox of 2016ce. I marked the occasion ay mid day. A point of equality of light and dark.

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Christchurch priory

I have over the past few years explored Christchurch at differnt times. Two of these previous occasions I titled Tweoxneam and Twynham. Below are some of the notes, recordings and films I made previously.

Christchurch is a coastal Dorset market town to be found between the popular seaside resort of Bournemouth and the rural beauty of the New Forest in Hampshire. Christchurch itself was part of Hampshire until 1974 when the county boundary changes and still posses the liminal feeling of being between two distinct geographic atmospheres, physically the town was founded because of this.

Tweoxneam is the original old English name for the dwelling place that became Christchurch, deriving from betweoxn, meaning between, and éam meaning rivers. The rivers are the Stour and the Avon. The Stour leads up country from the Harbor and its hill fort promontory known as Hengistbury Head, then towards Blandford Forum and it’s nearby hill forts of Hod Hill, Hambledon Hill and Badbury Rings. The river Avon leads on through Salisbury and beyond, passing by close to Stonehenge, the Stour being the most likely possibility of how the Bluestones were transported from the Preseli Hills to the Frome and onto Warminster before being rolled across land to their destination on Salisbury plain.

Hengistbury Head itself is a dramatic and forceful landscape feature, dominating the coastline. From prehistoric times until Alfred the Great it remained a site of enormous strategic importance against attack, and continues to be a site of importance in the town, these days more for tourism than defense but this is only one in a very long line of the ways in which humans have used this piece of headland.

To discover the earliest human activity we need to travel back to 10,500 BC when the Creswellian culture used it as an open settlement during the upper Palaeolithic, a rarity for these people, as this culture preferred cave settlements such as Crewell crags in Derbyshire.

Eleven Bronze age barrows can be found on and around the site, Urns and buriel goods excavated date the barrows between 1700 and 1500 B.C.

By 700 BC the site had become a prominent Iron age settlement, the huge double dykes that cut across the area date from this period, similar to those found at Maiden castle near Dorchester or Fontmell down just outside Shaftesbury.

Moving on to 50 B.C and Hengistbury head had become a significant Late-Iron Age port, continental archaeological finds from this era indicating that it had become the main entry point to the country.

The next period of interest for me arrived in the 17th century and the Dorst smugglers, the Double Dykes now changing use from defense to a hiding place for contraband goods, seen now through romanticised stories but backthen as something altogether more threatening and dangerous.

Hengistbury head though is just one of a triad of hills surrounding the town, the other two being St Catherine’s hill and the hill on which now sits Christchurch priory. St Catherine’s hill is despite it’s ubiquitous presence on the landscape almost always deserted apart from lone dog walkers by day and teenagers by night. It has been habituated since the Mesolithic, through the Neolithic and bronze age and still shoulders a number of tumuli today. On top now is a huge radio mast , continuing it’s usage for long distance communications such as the Roman signal station and the fire beacons of tudor, even more intriguing to me is the nuclear bunker built after the second world war by the Royal Observer Corps, since apparently filled in during the early 1990’s.

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Hengistbury Head

I still like to believe that this bunker survives like some labyrinthine maze as in the Avalon legends of Glastonbury Tor or perhaps even like the post futuristic sci-fi lab such as the one under Avebury in the 1970’s children’s television program ‘Children of the Stones’.

The third hill on which stand the priory is also responsible for the current name of the town. The priory stood in it’s earliest form from the 11th century but it was not until the 12th century when during expansion that a beam was cut too short, a disaster that should have meant the end of the building work being completed or at least making it extremely costly, however a mysterious carpenter apparently came onto the scene and as if by magic the following morning the beam was back to it’s intended size and had been fitted into place. The only logical explanation of course was that Jesus Christ himself had been the mysterious carpenter and so the ordinary modest church became Christ’s church and eventually the town was so well renowned and visited by pilgrim’s that it was renamed Christchurch. Beyond the simple explanation of Christ as the carpenter savior of the Priory lies a deep allegorical story which deserves a full exploration of it’s own to do it full justice, which lies beyond the scope of this text. The important point for now though is to scrape away the religious dogma, the political theology and to celebrate the fact that from the creswellian culture through grand Christian architectural and cultural achievement and beyond shows the continual tapping into a deep spiritual current alive at this geographic point, through and outside of linear time.

The center of town with the rivers, the Norman castle, the Anglo-Saxon watermill, and it’s antique buildings is a wonderful place to spend some time. The Red house museum petitioned by sometime local resident Gerald Gardner is to be found here containing many finds and skeletons from the hill forts and barrow cemeteries around the town. One Bronze Age cemetery was flattened at some unknown time but can be visited by the interested explorer by standing in the Waitrose car park on the edge of town. As you stare up a modern consumerist temple you can rest assured that the ancients are never far away, if perhaps less than impressed.

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Christchurch castle

Before ending I would just like to revisit that museum enthusiast Gerald Gardner as if it wasn’t for him those ancient burial mounds might have been the last pagan influence on the famous Christian pilgrimage that Christchurch had become. Gerald however had other ideas. He had attended the Ashrama hall in Christchurch run by the Rosicrucian Order Crotona fellowship, an Occult group which he joined and through which he claimed to have encountered the new forest coven into which he was initiated in 1939.

Through his work and research on ancient pagan cultures and involvement with The Ancient Druid Order he wrote his seminal work ‘Witchcraft today’ edited by his good friend and companion Ross Nichols. The rest as they say is history with Wica or Wicca as it is better known with a growing demographic, in the 2011 UK census 11,766 people identifying themselves as Wiccan and in the the United States in 2008 the American Religious Identification Survey showed there to be 342,000 people identifying themselves as Wiccan.

Tweoxneam  is my sound poem or sound sculpture to and for the town, with environmental sound recordings made exclusively within the towns localised geography and all other sounds generated by myself at my home in Christchurch. My aim is to allow the places I create within to speak, to breath, to directly influence and direct my work, this seems even more obvious to me when working in the place I choose to live in, as surely something of the town travels with me wherever I go. Through direct application of tuning into the genius loci or perhaps the spiritus mundi and it’s presence at any given place and time, using meditative techniques I offer to you Tweoxneam as an immersive piece, long form in structure to take you on an astral voyage and perhaps you might even choose to visit the town and its surrounding landscape for yourself some day.

Another earlier piece I composed for the town is Twynham, exploring similar themes to that of  Tweoxneam although as I said at the very beginning, the sound very different on each occasion.

I shall be using this site as a place to document and archive my site specific artwork and thoughts around the place at the time. Sometimes this will be with a piece of sound art, an unprocessed field recording, photography, film, poetry and painting.

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