First Vanishing Art Work Takes Place at Mombaccus
by Peter Lamborn Wilson
Saturday, Oct. 31 (Samhain) ’09 (3:30 PM)
I went with some friends of mine (including Charles Stein, David Levi Strauss & Raymond Foye) to a place in Accord, NY, where two rivers meet: the Rondout & Rochester Creek (formerly called the Mombaccus Kill). I’ve been fascinated by this spot for years. Although it possesses great geomantic atmosphere it remains unmarked & unknown to tourists.
In the 18th century Dutch colonists noticed that Indians had carved a Face in a sycamore tree on this spit of land, & called it Mum Bacchus, the Mask of Dionysus. Ethnographers agree that this figure must have been Maysingwey, the Bear God & “Master of the Game”, chief deity of the local Algonkans (Esopus, Munsee, Mohican, etc.)
After extensive research I’ve learned that the Algonkan Bear Sacrifice to Maysingwey resembles the Ainu (of Hokkaido, Japan) Bear Sacrifice in so many respects that “coincidence” is simply impossible. This ceremony actually diffused around the entire Post-Ice-Age Northern Hemisphere—elements of it are found wherever the constellation around the Pole Star is identified as the Bear (Ursus major). (King Arthur, for instance, is an avatar of the Bear.)
In fact the Bear Cult began some 60,000 years ago with the Neanderthals. Along with snake worship it’s surely the oldest continuous still-extant religion in the world (altho’ fallen on hard times since the 19th century). The shape of the Paleolithic animal cult can be detected in such chthonic figures as Shiva Pashupatinath (“lord of animals”)—and Shiva of course can be & has been identified or conflated with Dionysys. So—it turns out—Meysingway actually “is” Bacchus in some sense—as I’ve attempted to show in an unpublished handwritten essay meant to be included with the Documentation of this art work.
Thus I see Mombaccus as a power spot in the lost or still-unrealized Topography of an authentic American santeria or voudoun, in which all religions are as one on the magical or esoteric level. Imagine if Thomas Morton of Merrymount had actually succeeded in founding a syncretic cult based on Greco-Roman mythology, Indian shamanism, and High Church Anglicanism.
Anyway, I wanted to recognize & honor Mombaccus as a pilgrimage site, a numinous place with no shrine but woods & water—a concept of the Natural as sacred shared with Native Americans by—for example—the Celtic druids. Certain amiable cranks believe Irish druids actually visited Turtle Island & left “ogham stones” from Canada to Oklahoma. In any case, altho’ I’m not an Algonkan, I do claim certain druidic initiations [see my Ploughing the Clouds].
So I acquired the title of druid from the Universal Life Church of Modesto, Calif., for $5 (I’ve been a minister of the ULC for decades & have performed many legal marriages under their aegis).
And on Halloween, the druid New Year, I threw three gold rings into the confluence of rivers at Mombaccus. “Depositing” sacrificial goods, especially gold rings, torcs, circlets, coins, etc., in streams & ponds was a common druidic ritual. Over many centuries the waters were often replaced by peat bogs, & the gold “caches” are eventually discovered by some turf cutter or antiquarian.
I purchased the rings at Kingston’s oldest pawn shop (“Guns & Gold Bought & Sold”) for $170; the receipt is included in the Documentation of this artwork or poem-action. My throwing the rings was witnessed & photographed.
Although this work was inspired by Hermeticism & other magical traditions it was not meant as “pure” ceremonial magic, nor as ritual, nor even as performance. It’s not exactly “Poetic Terrorism” nor is it “social sculpture”.
The art, such as it is, comes into existence only in the moment of its own disappearance; afterwards it will be invisible—except to the spirits—(in this case especially Maysingwey, Bacchus, & the nymphs (or Undines) of the streams. It can be called Vanishing Art: altho’ it leaves documentary traces, it is basically gone. (But perhaps a fish might swallow a ring & a fisherman catch the fish, etc., as in the many fairy tales…)
The Mombaccus action was meant as the first in a vast series of similar temporary landscape installation pieces. For example I plan a work in honor of the Salamanders (Fire Elementals)—a pyrotechnic display that will exist only in one explosion; works composed of flower offerings, left to decompose; poems written on kites & cut loose to fly; “Hermetick Pic-Nics” in various picturesque natural settings; outdoor altars made of honeycomb & beeswax; buried treasure, etc.
Each will commemorate a specific place (topos) which is or ought to be held sacred in that imaginal re-pragmatization of monotheism I’ve defined as a santeria, or a kind of HooDoo. (I received an “initiation of blessing” into HooDoo at the grave of Marie Laveau in New Orleans in 1955.) Most of these “feng shui” spots are in Ulster County or the Hudson Valley generally, where I’ve been researching local magical & revolutionary lore for the last ten years. Thus I hope to do works for the Anti-Rent War of 1845—for the Colonial Rosicrucians—for the Jukes & other local Maroon or Drop-out societies like Pang Yang—for the restoration of damaged polluted desacralization commodified geography (or psychogeography) & its transmutation back into animate space—for the re-enchantment of the landscape—to create new superstitions & Endarkenment (that is, fear & respect as well as love for Nature)—to aestheticize ecology—to poeticize science—and (by intention anyway) to change reality through magical consciousness.
Note: see also the following books by me:
Gothick Institutions (Xeroxial Editions, W. Lima, Wisc.); Green Hermeticism: alchemy & ecology [with Christopher Bamford, Kevin Townley & Pir Zia Inayat-Kahn] (Lindesfarne); and Ec(o)logues (Station Hill Press, forthcoming)
David Levi Strauss, “Beuys in Ireland: 7000 Oaks on the Hill of Uisneach”, in From Head to Hand: Art & the Manual (Oxford Univ. Pre., forthcoming).