Photo by domenic_nwh
Just before Christmas I posted a mix by Stephen Grasso called “A Voodoo Christmas in South Norwood”, a compilation of non-standard Christmas fare featuring a lot of music from the West Indies. Stephen Grasso is a London-based dj, published writer and Vodou practitioner, and over on the Bang The Bore blog he is currently posting an extended essay-cum-tour of London, in weekly parts, called Smoke And Mirrors. As the name would suggest, Grasso takes in a lot of sites of ancient historical importance and magical significance - in particular around the financial district known as “the City” - and places these within a context of current social unrest and popular demonstration (although the essay was written before Occupy sprang to life). Here is a taster, from the latest chapter called ‘“The Fire Of London”, posted yesterday:
The final crossroads before leaving the City of London is the intersection of Cannon Street, Gracechurch Street, Eastcheap and King William Street, in the shadow of the Monument. Constructed between 1671 and 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren, the Monument to the Great Fire of London functions as a principal Poteau Mitan of the square mile. It is a Petro mystery, ruled by Legba La Flambeau, whose fiery presence consumes the nearby crossroads. The Monument stands 202ft high, and remains the largest free-standing stone column in the world. If it were lain flat, its tip would mark the spot where the fire began, at the site of a bakery on Pudding Lane.
The Great Fire of 1666 is one of several apocalypses that have been endured by the city. It raged for four days and consumed the entirety of the square mile, and threatened to spill over to Westminster and Southwark before it was finally brought under control. The destruction swept through 13,500 houses, 87 parish churches, 44 company halls, the Royal Exchange and St Paul’s Cathedral, among other buildings, and left around 200,000 people dispersed into the surrounding areas. The death toll from the fire is numbered at eight, which seems miraculous given the extent of the blaze, until you realise that, in Old Boys terms, the lives of the poor don’t matter and their deaths are unlikely to have been added to the tally. The fire was hot enough to melt iron, and would have reduced its victims to unrecognisable charred bones, undocumented amid the rubble. The death toll also does not include the many left destitute who would have died from poverty and exposure in the harsh winter that followed the disaster.
At the peak of the Monument is a flaming urn cast in bronze, giving the structure the aspect of a candle. Simultaneously a lamp set for the dead and a beacon of hope. Wren’s first choice for the ornament was a phoenix with wings outstretched, as a metaphor for a new London rising from the ashes of the ruined city. No free-standing pillar on the scale of the Monument had been seen before by Londoners, and it struck a cultural impact akin to that of the Empire State Building in New York, a fantastical construct ushering in a brave new world. A promise that Wren would later follow through on and surpass with his breathtaking design for the new St Paul’s Cathedral.
You can read the full article here, or if you would like to start from the beginning with part one, “All Cities Have Magic”, then go here.