“Money is what God used to be. Good and Evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good” — George Orwell
I care not what puppet is placed upon the throne of England to rule the Empire on which the sun never sets. The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire and I control the British Money supply” — Baron Nathan Mayer de Rothschild (1840–1915)
“A man without a God is like a fish without a bicycle” — The Cosmic Trigger Play
I arrived at The Cockpit sometime after 10.30pm, I had just finished work with Transglobal Underground featuring Natacha Atlas. As a Musician’s Tour Manager and someone who runs a Record Label, I have an interest in the nature of money, its relation to thought and knowledge, and how these are entangled in the primal psychology of sacrificial ritual, and what it is to be a sovereign being. Jon Harris, the first Iron Man Records Patron, Master of Ceremonies, author of The Money Burner’s Manual: a guide to Ritual Sacrifice, editor of Burning Issue Magazine and organiser of the event, had asked me to look after the Merch Stall. I’ve done merch for Jon before. I helped the cast, production team and crew of The Cosmic Trigger in the same way when they put their events on at the Cockpit a while back. I don’t know how it happens, but I always seem to end up working on projects I don’t fully understand. But, I take my Nonsense seriously, everything can teach you something.
Dave Wybrow and the staff at the Cockpit had agreed to host the evening, and this year it was to be a Ritual Midnight Mass Burn. Entry was free to get in, once you had registered your interest on the facebook event page. The event lasted more than 90 minutes and included scriptural readings and sermons delivered by Daisy Campbell, Claudia Boulton, Roddy McDevitt and Tom Baker. Music and performance was provided by The Naked Grace Missionaries (Live Performance) and Horton Jupiter (Ritual Soundscape). There was an associated Ritual to “Banish Phatty” from Crossbones Urban Shaman John Constable, also known as John Crow. I’d like to tell you about that.
I didn’t attend with any intention to participate. I was caught up with the idea that you are either the artist or the audience. Binary thinking is never helpful. Aristotle and “A, not A” has a lot to answer for. I was neither, perhaps both. Meaningless even. I had been asked to be the Merch person, and I had all sorts of delusions about “roles and responsibilities.” The readings, music and performance were probably the best of any of the events I had attended previously. Quite brilliant. Inspirational. I’ll leave those with the audience who were able to bear witness. But I can give you a peep into what happened next, behind closed doors, before the Money Burning Ritual commenced. You’ll have to forgive me for focussing on John Constable’s contribution but you might understand why by the time you’ve read this.
John took the floor and lit the sage. After a brief introduction, and explanation to put his actions into context, he announced his intention to perform a Banishing Ritual. The Urban Shaman’s words began to unravel. A few minutes of words and burning sage passed before John requested a glass of water. I headed to the bar. Who forgot the stage drinks? I did. Probably. Why didn’t I spot that one? Nevermind. On my return, I waited for my moment to present the water, taking care not to throw John’s attention and focus from his work. It seems I managed to pick completely the wrong moment to hand the glass of water to John. I waited until there was a natural pause in his vocal flow. John had named the imaginary “Phatty” as the target for the evening’s ritual. I walked out and handed over the water. As I did so, John requested volunteers to join him in making a circle. I handed the water over, and found myself to be part of a circle. People formed up in front, and behind me. I wasn’t going to look sheepish walking back, I was participating in the ritual before I could think of an alternative. John demanded Seven repetitions of a phrase from us all while walking one way, then seven repetitions of the next one walking the other way. It rose to a frenzied crescendo “…..and open the gates to paradise!” Everyone joined hands and the screaming began.
As Banishing Ritual’s go, it would probably be an understatement to say that “Phatty,” our imagined god for the evening, was well and truly fucked. Even I got a shot of adrenaline from the whole process. I don’t get out much. I bought a copy of “The Southwark Mysteries” by John Constable after the event and I asked John to sign it. I had to do something to come to terms with what I had just witnessed.
To finish, master of money burning ceremonies Jonathan Harris, also known as The Money Burning Guy, talked through a number of thoughts, ideas, and anecdotes, unscripted and entirely in the moment. He brought attention to the staff he carried, a number of objects on display, the books present on the altar. One book was in German, Melusine was depicted on the front cover, Jon admitted he couldn’t read German. When all was said and done, Jon initiated the Midnight Mass Money Burn Ritual.
I’m not at liberty to describe, or comment on what happened next, that will remain like the readings, music and performance, with those who witnessed or participated. The ritual took some time to complete. The room filled with the odour of candle wax, sage and burning banknotes.
Jonathan Greet, as official photographer, captured pictures as events unfolded. For those with a curious mind, you can see Johnathan Greet’s pictures here. Jon Harris closed the ritual when all participants had finished their burn, and offered everyone “One for the road,” a shot of Jura Whiskey. Those who attended will know what it was, and why.
I was pleasantly surprised to notice there were a number of Iron Man Records Patrons present. It’s not just me or Jon, there are lunatics everywhere. I found myself chatting with some of them as people stood around in the afterglow of the ritual. I had to head out and make myself available on the merch stall, I had an interesting collection for sale. I don’t think people had sufficient time to browse fully before we had to close up, let me show you a few items. There was a lot to take in on show.
Bob Osbourne helped out on the Merch Stall. Bob came to my attention a few weeks ago through social media, with an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery displaying works of art executed on currency. The exhibition was installed in the Prints & Originals Gallery from 30 August to 8 September 2018. The exhibition showcased a unique collection of defaced money art that had been sent in from all over the world for inclusion in the “Cash is King” book which was launched at The Saatchi Gallery. Bob had brought with him a number of items to put on display including “Cash is King” — The Art of Defaced Currency, which he wrote with Carrie Reichardt.
I didn’t realise it until I had read the book in full, Carrie Reichardt is the artist whose workshop I have walked, and driven past, on numerous occasions on Acton Lane, London.
Carrie Reichardt transformed a classic English taxi into a “Zulu VooDoo Liberation” project, bringing attention to the cruel and inhumane treatment of Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore. After more than 36 years in solitary confinement, deprived of virtually all human contact, suffering from what he described as a constellation of muscle atrophy, cardiovascular hypertension and deteriorating vision caused by a lack of light and visual stimulation in his stifling cell, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore was finally released into the general prison population with a simple aspiration: He wanted to design T-shirts. A prisoner at the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary — a former slave plantation known as Angola — Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore has only recently finished one of the longest stints in solitary confinement in the United States.
Carrie Reichardt’s connection to Black Panthers goes a way back. More than fifteen years ago she started writing to people on death rows and political prisoners and many of her correspondences turned into some long-lasting friendships. The Merch Stall at The Cockpit was not quite as you would expect.
Jon Harris, event organiser and master of ceremonies himself, had brought a number of items for sale too. Burning Issue, The World’s First Magazine for Money Burners published 23rd JUNE 2018. 160 pages (ISSN 2516–8738) including a double page pullout and Free £23 note and A4 fine quality ‘art catalogue’ print. Here’s the front cover:
Jon has recently printed a softback edition of The Money Burners Manual, a book described as “an essential body of work written by a dangerous lunatic.” The Manual explains why ritual sacrifice is the ultimate moral and spiritual action and why money makes the perfect sacrificial victim. The Money Burner’s Manual is both invocation and treatise. The conscious sacrificial act of money burning is the axis upon which the author’s life turns. The *doing* of nothing — the deliberate creation of nothing from something — resets our connection with reality at some otherwise unknowable metaphysical substrata. It is not so much that this has direct effects, more that it simply changes everything and throws off a clustering of synchronicitious events around each re-enactment. The in-depth academic consideration of what money is and how ‘economic thought’ pervades knowledge, serves to provide the reader both with intellectual rigor and, perhaps more importantly, something to hold onto once the magic starts to happen.
No merch stall would be complete without T-shirts. There were two colours to choose from. Black or White, in pretty much any size you could want. Each T-shirt is sold in its own presentation box complete with security seal, and full instructions.
Mark Wagner had also contributed to the stall. There was a free poster for everyone who attended the event called “Fund Education”
Mark Wagner is best known for his intricate collages made entirely from deconstructed US dollars. Wagner destroys thousands of bills yearly to create works which pointedly and playfully explore the intersection of wealth, power, value, and American identity. Wagner’s audacious (and unlawful) destruction of this revered icon of American commerce is checked only by his virtuoso material manipulation, which renders what you will… portraits, plant life, fantastical beasts, or allegorical scenes recasting George Washington in every roll.
Mark Wagner contributed three signed posters for sale at The Cockpit. Wagner’s artwork is an entry point to a conversation extending far beyond the art world. Decades dedicated to destroying banknotes has provided Wagner with a unique perspective on the nature of money. Modern man’s obsession with finance and our wistful attempts to tame it through economics belies money’s emotional, mercurial… even fictional nature. Wagner addresses these issues in writing, lecture, and interview as eloquently as he does through his artwork.
Wagner’s work is collected by dozens of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the US Federal Reserve Board, and the Smithsonian Institution. It has shown extensively including at The Metropolitan Museum, The Getty Research Institute, and National Portrait Gallery. It’s been seen in Time, Newsweek, Harpers, and Art in America as well as on CBS, PBS, and the silver screen.
“All the qualities that make banknotes difficult to counterfeit make them a great material to work with. Bills are the last example of engraved printing in practical use. The process provides a fineness and quality of line unmatched by other print processes.
The paper that bills are printed on — milled by the same company that produces Crane stationery — is also quite specific. Blue and red silk fibers are added to deter forgery. It is designed to be handled by thousands of people without deteriorating. With its high flax content, and a hardness imparted by the pressure of the printing process, it can take abuse that would turn lesser papers back into the mush from which they’re made. In the studio, thin ribbons can stand contortion without tearing. They can be glued, peeled up, and glued again; they can be soaked, scraped, sanded, and burnished.”
I’ve stated previously that I’m not at liberty to discuss the Ritual Midnight Mass Burn in any detail here but, in bearing witness, it was a profound experience, for many reasons. And not for any reasons I had anticipated before it began.
I’ve burned money on numerous occasions over the years, for many different reasons, and always by myself. It can be difficult to explain or rationalise to anyone who hasn’t done it themselves. It can cause arguements and misunderstanding, and cannot be taken lightly. I don’t really know why I do it. I try to rationalise it in my own mind, but my actions can be triggered by a number of factors, without warning, and for no reason.
Ritual sacrifice, to me, is a personal thing. Even I don’t fully understand it. Perhaps that’s why I’m interested. It can be a banishing ritual, an exorcism, a destruction of something that demands creation. Sometimes it’s nonsense. Jon has described it as an act of forgiveness, and in simpler terms a sacred act. For me, it opens a portal of sensitivity that cannot be fully comprehended until you do it for yourself. For me, the portal that opens up is like realising the difference between the word “belief” and the word “suppose.” One is closed. The other is open. It invites reflection and consideration upon the simple idea of “What if…..?”
Sacrifice on one level attempts to rid myself and others of bad luck or whatever might be important at the time, but something else happens. Burning Money, Ritual Sacrifice, destroying something that actually hurts you on a personal level, opens up your awareness and sensitivities in an unexpected way. Jon has suggested in The Money Burner’s Manual that ritual sacrifice “resets our connection with reality at some otherwise unknowable metaphysical substrata.” You notice things that may have passed you by. Almost like letting the handbrake off in your mind. It can break the hold that money has over your thoughts and actions. You don’t always know it, but in many ways we are all pre-programmed to respond to specific things in specific ways. Ritual Sacrifice can jam the programme and even reset your mind altogether. Your rational self can let go. Free thought can overwhelm your mind for the first time in as long as you can remember. The experience can be intense. Profound. Burning Money conjures all sorts to mind.
“Real money is a necessary component of the magic spell. The material has to be the thing of value, because the transgression, the naughtiness, and the sacrifice are all part of the emotional appeal. Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t have made his monster out of color Xeroxes.” — Mark Wagner
The desire to make sacrifice appears to come and go of its own accord. I don’t plan, I just do as the moment demands. Sometimes it happens without warning, sometimes I let it pass.
You get the idea, money burning is not entirely as it may seem. And it’s personal. It’s more about you, what it means to you, how it effects you. And everyone is different. All perception is different, so all outcomes are different. In the same way that “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you” so it follows that when you burn money, the money burns into you, your reality, and all your perception. It’s up to the individual in each case to interpret what that means to them. The result or consequences are not a given. You can make of it what you will. Don’t expect others to think or feel the way that you do. You are the master, you have to make the world you want to live in, through your actions everyday. There is value in everything. It’s up to you what happens next. Be kind to yourself and others. If you want to know who’s in charge now, the answer is simple: You are. But careful as you go.
“It’s dangerous to understand new things too quickly” — Josiah Warren, True Civilization.
If you would like any items from the merch stall mentioned above, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do to satisfy your interest.