worn and soft, brittle and shattered
Little ho(l)e prayers
I’ve thrown the bones on the table and all I can see is languages of erosion speaking from very distinct embodiments. As I stare and stare and attempt to tap into the meeting points —the shared voice— the message that keeps on coming through is “that which is worn out becomes soft or it shatters”. Erosion can lead to a smoothing of edges or a brittle bluntness.
Do we have a choice, or is the way we wear ourselves out and down completely contingent on what we’re made of? Can erosion be thought of as the evidence of touch on both a geological and intimate scale? And in that sense, what type of touch softens us or brittles us? How long can we endure the impact of a force on us without showing it? Does that depend on our capacity for resistance, the strength with which we push back, or on what we’re made of? Or both? Questions upon questions.
I’ve been wondering about erosion for years now. From collecting old tires ready to be sent to landfill to the more practical (and enjoyable) task of collecting hag stones, drift wood and rusty nails. A fascination with that which is worn out.
Though I first started gathering holey stones many years ago, it became one of my favourite activities during the first 2020 lockdown when I spent some time living in Brighton by the sea. At the time I got my former partner to collect them with me and we gathered a big amount of them together that I would arrange in stone altars everywhere. It’s interesting to notice now how at the time I thought that it was something we were doing with each other, when in fact it was mostly me. Although my collection of stones predates the Brighton spell for a long time, this period brought holey stones to me almost on a daily basis.
This search for tangible, smooth, eroded beauty —a little stone miracle, saw me through a troubling period away from home, in a grand old Victorian seaside city turned homonormative commuter town, hippy-white-and-middleclass. I was without access to my friends, my things, and the privacy necessary for safe intimacy, while in a foggy and shapeshifting living situation, that unfolded with the backdrop of rising death statistics. I can only name some of the outlines of what transpired in this period two years after the fact. At the time, everything was confusing and volatile, with narratives that kept on twisting on themselves and leaving me with a sensation of a constant fall: rugs pulled from under feet on a macro and micro scale. It was little holes in rocks and tarot cards that kept me going. The hag stones of Brighton filled my pockets and gave me child treasure wonderment. They were something I could hold, smooth edges. They were worry stones to soothe nerves, scrying tools, jewellery and precious offerings to the trees and the dead.
One big ho(l)e portal
Last summer shortly after the solstice I went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Penzance to visit my friend Zoe and do some work together. Our work consisted of a series of rituals and offerings designed to connect with the elemental forces as represented through the tarot. We planned a day-long trek across some of the sacred sites, which included burial chambers, holy wells and stone circles, where we would stop to have snacks, pull tarot cards and make offerings to initiate ourselves to the wisdom of each element. This was one of the most special days I have had, doing somersaults around Chun Quoit burial chamber and head sands in Boscawen stone circle, while crossing paths with warlocks, mermaids and the dense underground watery energies of the Merry Maidens.
One of my highlights was visiting Mên-a-Tol and taking the opportunity to give myself a rebirth as I passed through the big hole with the intention to jump timelines. Upon meeting this huge stone with a hole I became giddy. I can’t remember how many times I passed creeping through the hole, on a loop. I also passed the boiled eggs through before snacking on them and leaving some as offerings. Each time I felt I was shedding a skin.
I’m not sure what it was exactly that Zoe and I initiated ourselves into, but after that trip, a devastating clarity started to slowly settle in for me. It was like breaking one thick and intoxicating spell day by day, a layer at a time, while keeping quiet and contained so that the spell wouldn’t be cast again.
Angelwings, hole makers, spell breakers
I recently consecrated the hag stone as my token for travelling through the realms as part of my ongoing work with my mentor, zen cartomancer Camelia Elias. Through the divination process and reflections, Camelia prompted me to think about the piddock, or angelwings, the mollusc that burrows on soft stones by boring holes with their teeth.
Angelwings have incredibly fragile shells, yet they have the power to drill through stone, and in that process they become one with it. That little stone has been claimed as a permanent home for the piddock until it dies, falls away and leaves the hole for other molluscs, crabs or sea anemone to take refuge in.
I’m turning the image of fragile angelwings drilling through stone underwater. The necessity of a soft shelled creature to make space for themselves within a hard stone, and spoon it for life, changing its shape forever, for stone endures more than the lifespan of piddocks. The stone remains, here once lived a piddock that burrowed in me for its survival, I am now a magical token, rare, soft, and yet I’m still stone. I endure.
What does all of this say about relationships, fragility and strength? What does it say about erosion, how we touch each other, the evidence we leave and the scars we endure? What does it say about the brittle that shatters and the hard that moulds?
I’m almost tempted to pull some cards but I shall not. Instead I scry through the hole, my eyes become blurry, tears rise, images emerge and my body responds to each one of them through tension and release. Some insights should not be reduced to words.