get in the sea (or rituals of renewal)
... when she came to the shore she limped along beside the sea as if something was guiding her. Lying before her there was a tree-trunk with its roots, as heavy as a man could carry. She looked at the tree and asked them to turn it over for her; it seemed to have been burned and scraped on the other side. She told them to carve a small smooth surface on it, where it had been scraped. Then she took her knife, cut some runes on the tree, smeared them with her blood, and chanted some galdrar. She walked backwards around the trunk going against the course of the sun, and pronounced many powerful charms. Afterwards she told them to push the trunk into the sea ...
Grettis saga Asmundarsonar 79; translation after Fox & Hermann Palsson 1974: 161
In the time it has taken us to walk from one point along the shore to another point and back again, the shore has shortened. I hadn’t reckoned with the tide. One more reminder of a lost body in the wild - that something so obvious seems so inconvenient speaks volumes. We’re here to perform a ritual, to renew ourselves and renew our process. We’re here to cast off what has gone before, to acknowledge it and then to set it adrift in the sea. We work quickly and with purpose, so as to complete the work undisturbed - a father and two young children were playing on the beach when we arrived and we are conscious of how this action might be read. The pace prevents any real sense of ceremony, so I worry that this the affect of the performance might be lost. Regardless, the ritual is the ritual and John wanders down the beach a way, to give me some privacy, as I begin to work on the piece of driftwood we’ve pulled from the sand. I score the sigil into the wood with a screwdriver. DIY RITUAL AESTHETICS because we didn’t think to bring anything more appropriate to do the cutting with. It was Benjx, who we’re staying with, who asked if we had, in fact, brought anything to do the carving with, and then pointed us in the direction of the ]performance s p a c e[ store cupboard. Benjx has sigils inked into their skin. They are far more elegant and considered than the one I scratch into this drift wood, but this rough and ready approach seems right, today. This ritual is, for me, about seeing off a spectre that snagged and caught on the brambles of my soul the last time I tried to do something like this. A half formed sigil, for a half gone ghost. I invite John to make their own mark, and strip whilst they do it. I quickly daub my body with blue powder paint - blue for the sea, blue for the cold, blue for the winter, blue for my mood, blue for nature, blue for protection. Ramblers erupt onto the beach just as I begin to walk into the sea. I stop. They eye us up and we eye them up and they wait down the beach. The water cuts my skin and I breathe in short sharp stabs. I try and hold onto the drift wood, and hold on to my purpose, and wade out into the water. The paint washes away, the branch is taken by a wave, the same wave that nearly knocks me off balance. I splash some water on my face and neck and walk back to the shore. I’m grateful for the extra towel John packed.
Later, back at ]performance s p a c e[, Benjx shows me how to make a tea to ward off illness, and later there is pungent, smoky garlic soup. Being nurtured by friends and collaborators - sharing practice, sharing a meal, sharing a home, sharing stories. This too does the magic of renewal.
John and I have spent a few days in Folkestone, working on Here Comes The Sun, trying, really, to grapple with what it is. Alongside this, we’ve made formed new friendships and renewed old ones. New collaborations and new adventures have been proposed. This too does the magic of renewal.
The cold, clean air; the sharp, salty water; the generous, kind welcome. These things have renewed mind, body and spirit. I feel more gentle and more empathetic. Thank you Bean and Benjx and Andre and Kahlo and Skyla for having us.
the warren, folkestone, UK
photo by john king