23 March 2006

Fashion is contemporary mask magic

This is something I've really wanted to touch on for a long time: that fashion is the contemporary equivalent of the mask magic used by aborigines and shamans from times past. The difference is that the shaman had the power of wisdom, thus allowing her or him to encroach situations both spiritual and sociological, utilising the masks to their advantage. Modern-day fashion wh0r3s and the vulgar masses are unaware of their own esteem, thus they lack the power inherent in themselves and rely on the costume, their façade, to supplant these necessary inner wisdoms of power. I know Grant Morrison briefly touches on similar concepts in The Invisibles, but unfortunately, I am at work, so I'll elaborate some other opportunity. In the meantime, check out the brief article:

The Sleek article, "Vanity of Vanities":
Ever since pirates first sailed under the skull and crossbones, it has been associated with death. Now, this morbid symbol flies again in the upcoming fashion season. The skull reminds us both of our impermanence on earth, and of the romantic transience of fashion trends. Should we be spending our hard-earned golden doubloons on the next must-have fashion items, or are there more important things in life? […]

Vivienne Westwood took the motif of skulls and bones a step further in the seventies, developing a lucrative relationship between fashion and the punk music scene. In her small London shop »Seditionaries«, Westwood used fashion to embody the fear and frustration of youth, which happily embraced different forms of tastelessness – the macabre (razor blades), the political (the swastika) and the sexual (used condoms or tampons); in order to rebel against convention.cont.


Anonymous said...

Ever taken a look at the artwork exhibition called Body Worlds?? There definitely seems to be something taboo about the ability to see underneath the skin and surrounding death in general. Not sure how I could tie this into magic, but when I saw the pics on your post, I remembered the Body Worlds book I took a look at once.


Fell said...

Hi Peki,

After doing an online search, I recall seeing it on Discover or something. Very neat stuff. This is where they 'embalm' the bodies with that clear pastic polymer stuff, no?

Image of persons on horseback

I'm not sure how it could tie into magic, but the symbolism of the human figure sans its flesh is very potent. Reminds me largely of author Clive Barker's fascination with the macabre in his works, which themselves are littered with occult symbolism.

Anonymous said...

Sort of. They (he?) embalm parts of the bodies, i.e. the circulatory system, nerves, brain, whatever, and then dissolve the rest. I'm told the result is quite shocking.

And yeah, I can see the similarity with Clive Barker, especially in the Imajica book where the Maestro can use bodily actions (breath/sight) to create force. I suppose there is an innate understanding that flesh has more power than it suggests?

- Peki

channel null said...

Neuroplastic reality episode: An hour ago I was sitting on the train thinking about going to the exhibit somewhere on the Enchanted Isle of Money City where they have "tastefully presented" corpses, flayed, dissected, and then posed, but I'm also in a moral bind over it--did you ever see the Franke Potente horror movie Anatomie (es ist auf Deutsch)?

Hint: tie fashion into the Thousandfold Thought.

I've been trying to figure this out forever.

See, every day I go to work (as in, every day--ever work at a place that got sued? thank god for OT pay) I lock a full windsor knot around my neck and keep straight-laced, straight-arrow, straight-edge.

When I'm not at work, I tend to wear a fur coat I pulled out of a dumpster and repaired and some woman's jeans too small for me. Needless to say, one of these entities drinks & smokes & talks about a lot of things and in a different manner and different diction than the other. It also gets different looks and reactions, like lots of girls approaching me with a strange look (possibly because that Ted Bundy vibe I picked up somewhere gets muted by the stuffed-animal vibe), start touching the coat, and say, "Uh, my friends wanted to know if this is real? Do you know animals died for this?" Only New Agey middle-aged secretaries and attention-starved flirty (not attention-starved slutty, why can't we get the slutty ones) temps like my ties.

I tried explaining this to some of the people I work with ("why do you wear a tie every day? it's not part of the dress code.") I don't mean to sound like an arrogant old magus here, but other people really aren't too aware of this shit. "You mean I act different in a t-shirt?" "Wait, are you saying other people act different when I dress different?" (thousandfold thought)

I'm meaning to experiment in glam more--I can understand why girls get so excited about clothes, but for me it's more of a perpetual taboo-breaking thrill that lets my shadow out--the Viking Youth got really excited when they start talking about cross-dressing, so I know I'm not alone.

Sometimes I wear my gym clothes on the subway, and then I just look and smell like shit, and homeless guys are friendly to me because I haven't shaved in a week.

Fell said...

Peki, I adore Imajica! It's one of my all-time favourites. Speaking of which, it's getting about time to re-read it soon.

Channel, I believe I've heard of the film, but never seen it. And no, me no speaky the Deutsch. This is Canada, we speak English, French, and Chinese. ;)

As for fashion, it's always interested me. Only now am I beginning to properly discern between hipsters and trendy folk, persons with a true style and intimate understanding of fashion as a symbolic language, and then the rest — those that buy into styles and try to wrap incorporate them into their own veneer, such as skaters, preps, goths, et cetera. Just as the saying goes, Language is a virus, consciousness the disease, something akin to apply to aesthetic.

Like any branding/marketing, the façade is only going to be as good as the service provided. The Nike swoosh didn't make the company, the company made the swoosh. And at first glance, the suit can make the man, but it's only armour. One peer into her or his eyes, and anyone worth their spit should be able to tell if they're a fraud.

I have been thinking a lot lately about power, what constitutes it, its real meaning. A personal, occult definition of power. What I am realising is, with great help I might add, from R. Scott Bakker's novels, is that power is how one utilises their roster of wisdoms (knowledge + experience = wisdom) to maintain their order and interpretation of reality held over any others. Thus, as you pointed out, the so-called Thousandfold Thought is applicable.

Fashion can evoke certain sensations, like you in your girly jeans and fur coat, and set the ground for dynamics to be set off, in which the dance of personalities come to calculate, subconsciously, who will exit such a period of dynamic interplay the stronger, more confident.

Once enlightened, one is not victim to ego, so the wisdoms necessary have been garnered (or "stripped away"?) and the dynamic becomes moot. In my case, I tend to pre-judge people based on their attire, posture, and shoes, but I will most often give them a few questions in small talk to gauge the depth of interest I might have in them. Most often, if the reply is "Nah, I don't read, and my favourite movie has any cast member from Saturday Night Live in it," I move on.

The aesthetic plays an important part in establishing the groundwork in Western civilisation. Give me a man in a suit, and I will expect the someone inside the suit to follow up the suit. If they don't, then I have in my repertoire the wisdoms necessary to put the stops on, and I take over the dynamic. In essence, I become infuriated at their imputence that I knock them down to their poseur status and wrap up the situation asap. However, my favourite is when I meet someone interestingly awry who has their own sense of style, and they can back it up with an intriguing sense of themselves.

Or further, say in Tom O'Bedlam's case, from The Invisibles, here is a man who opened doors to hell and then to heaven, and died "one of the greatest magicians of the species," homeless on the streets of London. Here is character who represents the move beyond the dynamics of human interplay.

For you and I, however, we are not above that point yet. I am still developing my wisdoms, like keys to different perspectives, and with every new mastery comes a new power, a new clique, a new social tapestry.

But some good points here, which I have been thinking about a lot lately. I think in the near future I should be posting more about some of this stuff.

Anonymous said...

Fell, Imajica is one of my favs as well, along with Weaveworld.

I'm interested in hearing more on what you have to say about power. Foucault's big thing is that power is inherent in any social interaction, but I wonder whether power is an applicable term outside of society. If, say, one is a solitary practitioner of magic, how would power come in to play, and is power even relevant in matters of magical practice?

And a question, as someone who is a bit of an occult noob. What is the Thousandfold Thought?

Take care,

Fell said...

Hi Peki,

I also really liked his The Great and Secret Show, as well as Weaveworld. It's been about a decade since I read any Barker, I should re-immerse myself. I essentially grew up on Clive Barker and Frank Herbert.

As for power, I have been contemplating the subject for the past week and a concept is coming to fruition. I will try to sketch it out and post it here soon.

The Thousandfold Thought, is the third book of the Prince of Nothing series, "detailing the emergence of Anasûrimbor Kellhus, a brilliant monastic warrior. Kellhus exhibits incredible powers of prediction and persuasion, which are derived from the stillness of the mind and a deep understanding of causal relations."

The namesake concept, the so-called Thousandfold Thought, is a powerful concept: by implementing one's will upon others, by bringing their beliefs into a harmonious entrainment together, so that all believe in one thing — that the one thing shall come to be.

It is similar, in a way, to the old adage, that if you call a kid stupid enough times that s/he'll come to believe it as fact. Thus, self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem explored in The Thousandfold Thought, is that the monk Kellhus begins to wage against the belief of others — as they come to see him as a prophet, yet he knows himself to simply be a well-trained individual seeking the Logos. I can't comment on the third book too much, as I'm only a quarter of the way through.

Like with the fashion magic, though, if you can convince the 100 people in the room you walk into that you're special or powerful or something, than you set that as groundwork from which other tasks may be carried out. When applying the Thousandfold Thought to fashion, first impressions are one's most important. If you can convince enough people that you're something, then what makes you not that something?

In the books, Kellhus is countered by the madness of a barbarian called Cnaiür. He alone knows of the monk's past, and their training in the manipulation of men and their paradigms. His madness and lack of introspective order keeps him safe from the passions that the monk weaves amongst men. Passions that, ultimately, get the monk what he requires.

It's like when I go into a class to lecture: I am in no way a master of anything. Yet, to the students, I have considerably more experience — first-hand and theoretical — which makes me worthwhile to listen to. I don't see myself that way. Who's right? Them or me? Who's got control? Them or me? If they claim I'm their teacher, and destiny unfolds as such, then who's right?

Power has to do with this concept. Knowledge of oneself first, so as to control oneself in such situations — in all situations. And a knowledge of other's wants, needs, and how they come to play themselves out. This is learned through an understanding of Jung's archetypes and Campbell's monomyth, as far as I'm concerned at this point.

First impressions are everything. The occult's power lies not only in its understanding of the Light, but that we should comfortably lie in the darkness. For beyond God's Light, there is only Darkness. In as such, before concepts, labels, and ideas exist in the mind's of people, there is only the blank slate.

Occult power lies in removing the capacity for others to be able to grasp the labels and concepts surrounding you. Yet, one must be a master of such social niceties in order to zig and zag from individual to individual, from caste to caste, and translate occult wisdoms from the metaphysical to the customary vernacular of those which you visit. That can be language, fashion, design, body language, morals, et cetera.

The more tapestries on masters, the further the understanding of the likenesses of the core components inherent in all humans. Thus, one wields a power that is subtle, but characteristic of every single human being — outside of their everyday trappings of language and culture.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like what you are describing is how charisma works, how to convince a variety of people that you are worth listening to. And yet, I can also see how that would put an amazing amount of pressure on such a person. When you have an entire group of people, or a country, or a world, believing what you have to say, the lee-way for making mistakes and personal growth becomes very constricted. You become bound by your own message, whatever it may be.

Perhaps then, the answer to your question of who's right in the perception of your "expertness" in teaching is neither. If one is the "truth", then either the students miss out on recognizing the learning experiences you've had to go through and restrict you to your singular role as teacher and ignore other aspects of who you are, or you devalue the input you have to give others, which may help them on their path.

As well, both have power in this situation. If you had no students, you couldn't teach. If you didn't teach, they wouldn't learn. I'm hesitant in any situation to see power as flowing in only one direction; it's more of a give and take, no matter how tilted that choice may be.

I would rather have a conversation with a teacher who recognizes the value of the input I may have, similar to what's going on here, than a teacher who expects me to assume s/he is the expert and master of their domain and cannot handle being questioned or contradicted. I've always found that engaging with material rather than merely absorbing it is a better way to learn.

Take care,

Klintron said...

I think this is a very important distinction to make, between fashion and style. How you dress has a magical/consciousness manupulation effect no matter what. But those with true sense of style seem to be more in control of really designing their own realities, rather than buying into ready made realities. And of course, someone can be a skater or goth or prep or whatever and have a deep sense of style. These people are often the trendsetters for a clique, or are on margins drifting between cliques. Either way, and consciously or not, they’re bending reality in conformity with their will.

Fell said...


That is a worthy observation. Looking up charisma:

The word charisma (from the Greek word kharisma, "gift" or "divine favor," from kharizesthai, "to favor," from kharis, "favor"), is often used to describe an ability to charm or influence people. It refers especially to a quality in certain people who easily draw the attention and admiration (or even hatred if the charisma is negative) of others due to a "magnetic" quality of personality and/or appearance. Though the term as it stands is extremely difficult to define, other similar terms/phrases related to charisma include: grace, exuberance, equanimity, positive energy, 'right stuff,' joie de vivre, charm, personal magnetism, personal appeal, 'electricity,' and allure, among many others. Usually many of these qualities must be present within a single individual for the person to be considered highly charismatic by the public and their peers.

Charismatic individuals generally project unusual confidence, calmness, assertiveness, authenticity, and focus, along with superb communication skills. To the early Greeks, charisma was said to be "a divine favor/gift" or "gift of grace," implying that this 'divine quality' was an inborn trait; today however, many believe it can be taught and/or learned despite the persistent inability to accurately define or even fully understand it.

That does is indeed seem to have synonymous connotations to aspects of the occult, no? But seemingly of a more personal nature. I suppose it could be the byproduct of being personally assured of oneself, and confident in one's chosen perspective of the world.

Within chaos magic, I know that paradigm shifting (or as I like to call it, "paradigm management") is of utmost importance. By coming to master multiple perspectives of one's world, one masters the subtler aspects that tie perceptions together — ultimately garnering the magician a power of perception outside of the normally singular, vulgar perspective of the paradigm of the masses.

This would be the occult knowledge many try to define. A knowledge of the subtle, similar ties that lie beyond the common vernacular of the people.

The occult experience lies in the application and personal utilisation of such observations in order to grow as an individual, to learn new truths.

Such truths become the sole property of the magician, thus embewing her or him with an occult wisdom. This wisdom is now a part of the soul, embedded in who the person is. These are the qualities that creates a tie amongst an élite, a Secret that knows no words.

As the master comes to practise, they find that others fall in line with their experiences. Some on a small scale, others on one much larger (from a social perspective, at least). What must be kept in mind is that it is a reflection of the self, and the things the practitioner does will cease to be an interactive social dialogue between the individual and the masses (peers, family, society, etc). One should see the reflection of the manifest world as the reflection of the inner realm, and an internal dialogue must be bolstered.

To deny this is to deny self-actualisation, and I would think that Hitler would be a grand example of this. He mastered many things, but I wouldn't presume he himself was one of the elements he'd conquered.


Yes, there is a definite difference between fashion and style, depending upon one's definition of the words. Yves Saint Laurent stated that fashions fade, yet one's style is eternal. However, one must have defined or tempered their own style firstly. This is a wonderful analogy for the expression(s) of the soul.

As contemporary occultists, we should play with as many forms of personal interpretation and expression as possible, in order to garner the occult wisdoms I mentioned just above.