Wednesday, 25 August 2010


An ash pole I raised nine foot long
And on it cut geases ten
Yan for the Black Lad who calls from the woods
Teyan from below the brawns haunted path
Tethera are the becks that feed the flood
Methera is fower footed goat jumpers blood
Tic for the spennies where King Boucca did run
Yan a tic’s a stang I ride to the sun
Teyan a tic trips in the Nicky-Nack race
Tethera tic’s frightened to show us his face
Methera tic the Nidstang a beacon of Hel
Bub for a Hornstang the beast and the spell
I send out Geri and Freki his kin
I set Black Finn on his Throne agin
To hunt the ghost-road by the gallows tree
Beware the woods for now they know thee

Monday, 23 August 2010

By The Gate Of Elphame

I'm not the Queen of Heaven, Thomas,
That name does not belong to me
I am but the Queen of fair Elphame
Come out to hunt in my follie

Friday, 20 August 2010

A Warning

A snapping bow, a burning flame
A ravening wolf, a grunting boar
A screaming crow, a rootless tree
A breaking wave, a seething cauldron
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide
A coiling adder, ice one night old
A bride's bed talk, a broken sword
A bear's play, a prince's child
A witch’s welcome, the wit of a slave
A sick calf, a new-slain foe
A brother's killer met upon the road
A house half-burned
A horse too swift
These are never safe. Let no man trust them.
Havamal 84-88

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wot I Did On My Holidayz I: Before The Dawn

Followers of this blog, and I know there are many, will recall a post some while back describing a 2008 tracking trip I took up the ancient Cami de Cavalls coastal path on the island of Menorca – a trip notable for the discovery of a mysterious scat tentatively identified as that of the Menorcan Pine Marten (Martes Martes Minoriencis). This summer, having engineered another family holiday to the lovely resort of Punta Prima on the southern tip of the island, I took second look at the coastal forest and scrub that lies inland from the Cami de Cavalls with a view to looking for more signs of the marten.
Dawn in the Balerics in early August happens about 6.15am. However, those who are up early enough to take note of such things will know that dawn is not something that can be relied upon to arrive precisely as expected, especially when one is waiting for the sun to rise up from the sea. Rather dawn is a process of change, a gradual lightening of the world and dispelling of darkness that profoundly effects animal behaviour and our changes of witnessing that behaviour. To be up in time to see the world illuminated by a bright and fiery sun, it’s rays shining through the low clouds lying on the edge of the sea is a privileged and a joy beyond price.
The plan was to be up and out whilst it was still dark, to make my way into the forest along the coast and sit quietly, possessing my soul in patience as Holmes was keen on saying to Watson, and wait for the dawn to come. If I were there in good time, and if I could find a suitable vantage point to look out over the forest I reckoned, without any real evidence or experience to back up my theory, that I stood a fair chance of seeing something of the local fauna. It was 5.45am when I left the apartment and made my way to eastern edge of Insotel’s grounds. It was warm and cloudy, the day after a heavy day of un-seasonal rain I was dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, although I had taken the precaution of wearing my Haglofs Trail2 trainers rather than the flip-flops of the first expedition. In addition I had a cheap compact digital camera, my tracking kit (ziplock bags for collecting scat, ruler for scale, magnifying glass for looking at mammal hair), torch and my EDC Mauser folder. I was set, and in the spirit of trespass and knowing that Spaniards, even those that shoot, are not to be found abroad at this hour I climbed the wooded gate that marked the entrance of the Private Hunting Estate and set off into the night.
The night was slowly fading away. In the eastern sky the darkness was paling to pinks and oranges, greens and blues as the clouds began to stand out in darker shades against the sky. Crickets and the insects of the night chirped and called their last songs. The light breeze moved the leaves gently and I tramped as noisily as a giant through the stillness. A short way up the rough dirt road another gate barred the way and to my surprise I saw a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) sitting on top of it watching my approach. It must have been as astonished as I was and in mutual awe and confusion we watched each other from a few metres apart. Rare in Northern England but common in Southern Europe I had seen Hoopoe’s before on both Menorca and Lanzarote but never at such close quarters.
I stealthily slid the camera from my pocket and switched it on, cursing the Japanese perverts that make it necessary for electronics manufacturers to add warning bells and whistles to their products [there was a craze in the early days of the digital camera for men to take up-skirt pictures of women as they commuted on busy trains, hence the warning sounds)and hoped the bird would not fly before I snapped of a shot. Luckily it seemed as shocked and confused as I was but I knew that the hoopoe would not stick around for a second portrait once the flash had knocked the sleep out of its eyes so I brought the camera up to head height, zoomed as far as possible and hoped the wobble would not ruin the picture. The electronic sounds screeched out in the stillness and in the flash I saw the bird turn tail and fly off into the night, making a curious squeaking alarm call as it went. My arrival in the early morning forest was not going to be as covert as I had fancied.

Wot I Did On My Holidayz II: Sunrise, wrong side of another day

Up the trail I went, the trees getting higher and the bush on each side thicker. At the summit of a low crest that gave a view south eastward towards the sea I stood and listened to the low, rolling drone of Nightjars calling from the depths of the woods. Nightjars make a dull, frog-like call that has been called “Churring” although these birds were not so much making a churring sound as a baaarrrrrping sound. I could make out two distinct individuals, one to my left higher up the slope inland and another to my right, lower down the hill closer to the sea. I stood listening for some minutes as the calls spread out across the darkness and looking around I noticed the bird from higher up the hill flap towards me in the final dark minutes of the night, hawking for moths and insects with its slow stiff winged flapping flight. It soared out of the darkness and flew around the trees, checking me out before returning back into the night, a thing of another world.
I was looking for somewhere comfortable to sit, with a good vantage point that allowed me to see what was going on and so far nothing has presented itself. There were piles of pale grey limestone and broken, tumbled down drystone walls in the bush but none of them offered the elevation I wanted. To the right I could make out a ridge with bare rocks rising above the forest but it was approximately 600 metres as the crow, or Hoopoe, flies through a dense and pathless series of thickets so not much use in secretly sneaking up on the sleeping wildlife. I pressed on up the trail until to the left a pile of white limestone blocks showed through the bush and I made my decision to use this as my perch.
There was no path leading to the structure so I had to do a bit of bush-wacking to get there but on arrival I found that I was on top of a very strange structure indeed. A circular pit had been excavated into the limestone bedrock and the stone taken from the pit had been used to build a wall around the perimeter of the pit. More earth and rock had been piled up around these walls to make an earthwork, with a narrow doorway left open facing the sea. Here I sat and watched the dawn break over the island. The disk of the sun had not yet risen above the edge of the sea but already the world around me was more light that dark. A blackbird began to call, a familiar sight and sound in such an exotic location, and I saw black headed whitethroats (Sylvia melanocphala) rise and shine from the bushes all around me. As the sun began to rise and its rays shone through the clouds on the horizon the Nightjar that I had heard earlier calling from its range closer to the shore took a final flight around its territory, flapping past me with those stiff wing beats, looking more like a giant bat than a bird. I watched as it circled its area, making a wide flight and coming very close to where I sat before losing it as it settled down into the thick scrub between me and the shore.

Wot I Did On My Holidayz III: Pit or Tower?

I still do not know what this structure is. At first I thought it was a pen for corralling livestock – most likely goats or sheep that had been left to browse through the scrubby coastal forest but it seems a lot of trouble to go to for a few goats, especially as there is obviously better grazing to be had further inland. Another theory is that this may be a shooting cover, similar to the grouse butts found on the moors of the North Pennines, which are often build of local stone and turfed over to provide cover for driven shoots. However, nobody is ever going to get a shot at anything from the bottom of a pit with a 4 metre wall enclosing them – unless the trick is to place oneself at the top of the wall and shoot out over the tops of the low scrub. Either way this is a modern structure and must have a use – answers on a postcard please.

Wot I Did On My Holidayz IV: Flies and Thorns

On such a small island as Menorca the dominant feature is the sea. It can be heard as it crashes against the rocks and cliffs, it can be smelled as the wind carries its salt breath inland and it is always there as a natural navigation aid, recalling where you have been and how to get back again. The southern and western sections of the island have a limestone geology from the Miocene, resulting in the clint and griek topography familiar in the limestone dales of Yorkshire and Cumbria, with all the weird shapes and exposed pavements from the hills we know. The flora of this southern coastal forested region is made up of heather (Erica multiflora), white rockrose (Cistus albidus), rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) and larger trees and shrubs such as the White pine (Pinus halepensis), Wild Olive (Olea europaea)and Myrtle (Myrtus communis).
It is thick and impenetrable. Those used to walking through British broadleaf woodland, with its neat and tidy understory and clear lines of sight, or even the denser plantations of spruce and larch will find a very different habitat. There are no paths, not even game trails to follow. The best one can hope for is to find one of the open spaces that have been burned back by fire but these are not linked, so to make any headway through the bush – or to get from A to B – one must brave the thorns and tangled spiny thickets and push on through. It goes without saying that this is very difficult country to walk through and almost impossible to track. The substrate is a hard baked red gravel lying on top of rock. Finding track or sign is a matter of good luck rather than good judgement and with every thicket and cover concealing a pile of stones that could form the den of a marten I decided that looking for the animal in this place was going to be a futile and thankless task and I may as well make what I could of the day whilst I was out.
I began to push through the dense bush, getting scratched and torn for my troubles as I went. Although I didn’t feel it at the time I was also getting eaten alive by flies. So seldom does anybody venture to this miserable, god forsaken place that every gnat, midgee, cleg and mossy within a mile must have woken up and made a direct line for the back of my neck. The next day I had a bite on my left wrist that had swollen up to the size of a golf ball and three bites on my neck aligned like Orion’s belt. I hope my blood tasted good.

Wot I Did On My Holidayz V: The sign of the upturned rock

You see strange things in strange places. Here, in a thicket so thick I doubt anybody had been there for years I noticed a large rock had been turned over. If tracking is about seeing small things to make a bigger picture this was something worth noting. The rock was an irregular shaped piece of limestone approximately 30 centimetres in lengths and weighting approximately 3Kg. It had been turned over and now lay with its red stained underside uppermost, the hard baked place where it had laid for however long still bare and visibly cracked. How long had the rock laid like this? Who knows, not long enough for the “top” to become stained or the “bottom” to have its red colour washed and bleached away by the alternate heavy rains and hot sunny days of a Balearic summer.
As to what had turned the rock over – that sets in train a whole new set of questions. The forest was riddled with rabbits, who seemed to lie up under the scrub rather than attempt burrows in the thin hard soil, but who has ever seen a wild rabbit turn over a rock heavier than itself when all they are interested in is green things to eat? The culprit most likely was some insectivorous mammal out foraging for food – and on Menorca that points to either the hedgehog or the marten. One of the local guide books I bought during my stay on the island listed the “porcupine” as a local species, although I fear this may be a poor translation of the English word hedgehog, a north-Africa subspecies of which (Atelerix algirus, or the Algerian Hedgehog) is found on the island. Whether hedgehog or marten something with a taste for looking under large rocks for grubs and bugs had turned this rock over and although I got down on my hands and knees looking for mammal hairs or spines amongst the rock-hard stony ground nothing could be found.

Wot I Did On My Holidayz VI: The Nightjar

I was now aiming for the coast, which I could hear and occasionally see over the tops of the low shrubs and trees and I knew that my way lay down hill and towards the sun but the going was getting tougher and I was often forced to turn back and look for less difficult paths through the thick and painfully prickly bush. On one of these detours I came to an open area between the higher bushes and here I stopped dead in my tracks as if smacked in the face by a cricket bat because lying under the lee of a bush, it’s tawny brown feathers doing the opposite of what they should in the pale dry grass, was a Nightjar.
I have never seen a seen or heard a Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) in the UK but here, in the space of an hour I had heard them calling, seen two of them on the wing in the last dark minutes of the night and was now face to face with one as it roosted on the floor. Was there ever a less birdlike bird that the Nightjar? As I dropped to my knees and crawled forward it looked more like a winged fish or a hybrid reptile than a bird. Its bill was short and pointed, rising from high on the birds head. Like all ground nesting birds it remained deathly still in an attempt to throw off any would be predators and at first I thought this individual was dead, a trick made all the more plausible by the narrow eye slits through which the animal watched me. My heart pounded as I fumbled for my camera, this was a once in a lifetime close encounter with a bird seldom seen at such intimate quarters and I did not want to blow my chances.
I quickly knocked off a couple of snaps, wobbly and poorly focused so much adrenaline was pumping through me. I crawled closer to the bird, not caring about the sharp rocks and thorns or the ants and ticks and took another picture. Still the bird did not move. I could see the black whiskery feathers that protrude from the sides of the bill, I could see the eyes dilated and glassy behind the closed lids, only the narrowest slits remaining open. I inched closer until I was only a metre away from the bird and took another picture, in greater detail and this time, as the low newly risen sun lit up the small open glad the bird erupted in that sudden, startling burst of flight that ground birds have and flew off, not far – only to the other end of the clearing before landing awkwardly and flapping around noisily with one wing raised in the air. This may have been a ruse to draw me away from what it had been sitting on – two pale eggs speckled with brown and blue lying in a bare circle of hard red earth.
My heart had not stopped racing since I first saw the bird and now, with the added shock of its sudden fright and the elation of finding the nest I quickly rose to my knees and took some pictures of the eggs before getting up and legging it in the opposite direction to the hen. Early August is late in the season to be sitting on eggs, even in southern Europe and I did not want to disturb the bird more than I already had, especially if martens or hedgehogs were in the area foraging for fresh eggs.
Like all the Children of Nyx the Nightjar has acquired a body of lore and myth that paints it as a sinister and malevolent visitor from the Nightside of the Tree. Rural folklore in Britain has it as the stealer of milk from goats and cows (it’s zoological name “Caprimulgus” means “Goat Sucker”), as well as being a trope for Puck and the powers of nocturnal mischief and misrule. The demon-mother of Hebrew mythology, Lilith, is described as “the Nightjar”, and the bird appears in the description of Edom’s utter desolation and of the things inhabiting its ruins. (Isa 34:14) The Hebrew term may be a loanword from ancient Sumerian and Akkadian from the name of a mythological female demon of the air (Lilitu). The Hebrew word (li•lith´) is derived from a root word denoting “every kind of twisting motion or twisted object,” even as the Hebrew word la´yil (or lai´lah), meaning “night,” suggests a “wrapping itself round or enfolding the earth.” Such derivation of li•lith´ may likely point to the nightjar as both a nocturnal feeding bird and one noted for its rapid twisting and turning flight as it pursues moths, beetles, and other night-flying insects.
How many have looked the Nightjar in its slit eye in the first rays of dawn?

Wot I Did On My Holidayz VII: Dustbath

It was now close to 7.00am and already the heat of the day was mounting. I had a long way to thrash through the spiny spiky thorny undergrowth if I was to get to the coast footpath of the Cami de Cavalls and with constant back tracking to find an easier way through the bush it was looking likely that the easier, and least painful route, was to go back the way I came and use the rough road to get back out. I never like giving up on a walk, no matter how much of a pain it becomes, but I was never going to see anything with the noise of pushing and squeezing through the winnies so I turned round and looked for an easy way back up the hill I had just came down.
Some time later I arrived at the road, running roughly parallel with the coast about a kilometer inland. The sun was rising high, early morning sailors were on the sea and in the distance I could hear the first cars on the road to Sant Lluis. Using the dirt road to walk out rather than the Cami de Cavalls would not bring me to the sea but it would save time and my battered and scratched legs. As I crested one of the rises heading westwards with the sun on my back towards Punta Prima I found a hoopoe, maybe even the same individual I had disturbed roosting on the wooden gate, taking a dustbath in the middle of the road. I had the chance to take a picture, a poor one though it is, before the bird flew off into the bushes. Arriving at the site I was also able to take a nice picture of the dustbath site, not a very inspiring holiday snap for the normal tourist but for somebody interested in sign and track a very nice end to a rewarding walk. The place where the bird had been dusting itself was marked with deep linear markings from its wing tips and was approximately 30cm in length by 20 cm in width.
I would love to spend more time in these coastal forests and gorges on Menorca. The place is a paradise for birds and wildlife, and with most visitors to the island confining themselves to their sun-loungers and swimming pools they are agreeably empty of people. I am still not sure what the law of trespass entails in Spain but as in England you need to get caught first. One of the best couple of hours I’ve ever spent on a family holiday! Review

Many thanks for the support. Check out for more post-industrial/noise/drone information.
TENHORNEDBEAST "Hunts & Wars" Cold Spring - 2010 CD
Third full-length for the project of ex-ENDVRA Christopher Walton. Proceeding along the way of pitch black rituals and unsettling atmospheres, this time TenHornedBeast introduces some different elements, achieving more variety and catching the listener's attention much more effectively than in the recent past. We are introduced into the new CD by an excellent 12-minute assault bearing the title "Reaching For The Stars We Blind The Sky", a drone / doom wall of distortions with hammering and mechanical percussions strongly reminding of the best Godflesh, but, of course, without vocals and recognizable riffs. It's a cathartic and powerful piece, showing the definitive evolution from Walton's early electronic noises, of Cold Meat Industry-derivation, to a more contemporary and effective guitar-based inferno.
The short "Hilnaric" is just a gloomy keyboard interlude, placed right before another sonic mammoth probably in order to let our ears rest for a moment. Indeed, the following "Father Of The Frosts" is another deep chasm of suffocating sounds, between distant electronic mists, obsessive guitar drones and echoing cymbals. Another short intermission is represented by the looped dark horns and deaf beats of "Ironborn", whereas "I Am The Spearhead" returns to the familiar Northern industrial atmospheres of early BDN and Archon Satani, with an obsessive machinery rhythm and substrata of haunting keyboards. Its quality is unquestioned, even if its originality not at the top. The last short interlude, this time entrusted to the minimal and almost melodic "Cimmeria", then it's time for the final, monolithic assault, the title-track. The volume rises progressively, just like the noise generated by the guitar strings and drones. Being this outro extremely long (19 minutes!), it needs your whole concentration to be grasped in its deepest essence.
In a scene where things have got mostly static and inexorably repetitive, TenHornedBeast have made significant progress, incorporating sounds and elements of the drone / doom environment to unleash it into the underground caverns and hellish domains conjured by this British necromancer. Listen at high volume to achieve a total wrapping and drowning effect.
Simon V