unripped

In 2016, Vanessa Woolf (London Dreamtime) and John Constable / John Crow  (Southwark Mysteries / Crossbones) devised ‘UNRIPPED’
a performance in poetry, song, storytelling and ritual.

It was performed in the churchyard of St George In The East, a Hawksmoor church. Now we’re reviving the show for this one-off online production.

‘UNRIPPED’ explicitly subverts the fetishisation of ‘The Ripper’, dismissing ‘Jack’ as a pathetic, inadequate, cowardly serial murderer, whilst celebrating the lives of his so-called victims as real women, daughters, lovers, wives and mothers. Some of these women chose sex work as a way of earning a living, others may have turned a trick when needs must – there was much more to their lives than is suggested by the lazy, dismissive, catch-all term “prostitute”.

Vanessa tells the story of Catherine Eddowes, an orphan girl and free spirit. We set the lives of the murdered women in the context of the hypocrisy surrounding our attitudes towards sex work, whereby the whore becomes the recipient of all the contrary desire and disgust in a sexually repressed society.

Relating this to our work at Crossbones Graveyard, John Crow performs ‘The Book of The Goose’ and conducts a simple participatory ritual to honour the ‘women of Whitechapel’. We’ll all light candles and offer flowers in a collective act of remembrance and healing.

Tickets are cheap (or free if you’re stoney broke). Book here:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/unripped-online-tickets-112121823392

St John’s Eve Crossbones Vigil

Tuesday 23rd June 2020 at 7pm – wherever you are

At 7pm on the 23rd of every month since 23rd June 2004, we’ve gathered in the street by the Crossbones shrine in Redcross Way – to honour the Outcast, dead and alive; to renew the shrine; and to reclaim the Secret History as revealed by The Goose to John Crow on 23rd November 1996.

The Vigils grew out of The Halloween of Crossbones, a ritual drama to honour The Goose and her Outcast Dead, conducted every 31st October from 1998 to 2010. This was itself an expression of ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ by John Constable, an epic work of poetry, songs and ritual dramas of healing and transformation.

On 23rd November 2019, John Constable (aka John Crow) conducted his last official Vigil, having completed 23 years of magical works at Crossbones. Since then, a Magical Collective of Friends of Crossbones has carried on holding the Vigils every 23rd.

23rd June is St John’s Eve, the traditional English midsummer festival, a time when people used to jump over bonfires, both literally and symbolic act of purification. At this Vigil we’re sensitive to the summer solstice, when light and dark are held in balance.

Depending on the highly volatile state of the national health crisis, some of us may or not be able to gather at the shrine in Redcross Way. Even given the easing of restrictions, those at high-risk may still feel it’d be unwise to join the often large crowd at Crossbones.

For the last three months of lockdown, people from all over the world have participated in Spirit, creating their own altars and conducting the rituals in their own homes, co-creating and reiterating the spiritual identity of The Goose and the Crossbones Vigil on The Astral. You’re invited to do so again on 23rd June.

During this period, Mark Juhan has done a livestream of him conducting the ritual from his garden in south London. This month, John Crow will do likewise, live-streaming as he conducts the Vigil at his home altar, only a short walk from Crossbones. This is for anyone who can’t get to the Vigil physically and would like a live connection with the rituals.

To help those who’d like to fully participate, with or without the livestream, here’s our basic ‘order of service’ – with opening, 3 ritual observances and closing. When conducting the ritual, the aim is to get out of the way, allowing The Goose to work her magic through you. Do it at your own altar and be part of it all. Like this:

1. Opening (on the stroke of 7pm)
Light a candle, incense. Ring seven chimes. Say:

‘Spirits of The Dead, Spirits of the Living, Kindred. Welcome!’

As you say these words, be aware that you are connected with all Spirits, incarnate and disincarnate, and with the transforming agency of The Goose, in this act of mutual healing taking place within a single, undivided consciousness.

Remind yourselves that Crossbones is a pauper’s graveyard, the final resting place for the sex workers (Wichester Geese) who worked in brothels owned and licensed by the Bishop of Wichester in Southwark’s ‘Liberty of the Clink’. Thanks to our work over the past 23 years, this once despised, desolate site has become a holy place for pilgrims from all over the world – a shrine and a garden of remembrance ‘for the Outcast, dead and alive’

2. Hold the candle for one minute’s silence, as you imagine lighting the open pathways for all beings to make their individual journeys. It helps to cultivate a state of “shining emptiness”, in which all sounds, sights and other sense impressions can arise and vanish, with nothing for anything to attach to.

3. “Binding and loosing”. Imagine tying a ribbon to Crossbones Gates. Invest the ribbon with all that you would wish for yourself, and as you tie it, release that blessing for others, saying five times:

“Here lay your hearts, your flowers,
Your Book of Hours,
Your fingers, your thumbs,
Your “Miss You Mums”.
Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might Have Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.”

4. Bardic offerings.
Perform a short poem or song from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, or something of your own dedicated to The Goose – or to celebrate midsummer and St John’s Eve.

5. Closing.
Close the ceremony with a libation of gin. Say:

“Life! Health! Happiness! Open Pathways!
Health in the Body.
Peace In the Spirit.
Love In The Heart.
It is this that we wish,
for ourselves,
for our friends and family,
for all our Brothers and Sisters,
for The Goose and The Crow,
and for all Humanity.
May it be so.”

then:

“Goose may you never be hungry!
Goose may you never be thirsty!
Goose may your Spirit fly free!”

And so she does…

Open pathways!

>><<

photos by Max Crow Reeves taken at the 2019 St John’s Eve Vigil

Crossbones May Vigil for the Outcast (on the Astral)

23rd May 2020 at 7pm, wherever you are

23rd May 2020 marks 16 years of monthly Crossbones Vigils. At 7pm on the 23rd of every single month since 23rd June 2004, we’ve gathered in the street by the Crossbones shrine in Redcross Way – to honour the Outcast, dead and alive; to renew the shrine; and to reclaim the Secret History as revealed by The Goose to John Crow on 23rd November 1996.

These past two months, because of the lockdown, we couldn’t be there in Body. However, people from all over the world have participated in Spirit, conducting the simple ritual acts in their own homes. We invite you all to do so again on 23rd May.

For those who’d like to fully participate, here’s our basic ‘order of service’ – with opening, 3 ritual observances and closing. When conducting the ritual, the aim is to get out of the way, allowing The Goose to work her magic through you. Create your own ‘street altar’ and be part of it all. Like this:

1. Opening (on the stroke of 7pm)
Light a candle, incense. Ring seven chimes. Say:

‘Spirits of The Dead, Spirits of the Living, Kindred. Welcome!’

As you say these words, be aware that you are connected with all Spirits, incarnate and disincarnate, and with the Transforming Agency of The Goose, in this act of mutual healing taking place within a single, undivided consciousness.

Remind yourselves that Crossbones is a pauper’s graveyard, the final resting place for the sex workers (Wichester Geese) who worked in brothels owned and licensed by the Bishop of Wichester in Southwark’s ‘Liberty of the Clink’. Thanks to our work over the past 23 years, this once despised, desolate site has become a holy place for pilgrims from all over the world – a shrine and a garden of remembrance ‘for the Outcast, dead and alive’

2. Hold the candle for one minutes silence as you stand in shining emptiness, as you imagine lighting the open pathways for all beings to make their individual journeys. It helps to cultivate a state of “shining emptiness”, in which all sounds, sights and other sense impressions can arise and vanish, with nothing for anything to attach to.

3. “Binding and loosing”. Imagine tying a ribbon to Crossbones Gates. Invest the ribbon with all that you would wish for yourself, and as you tie it, release that blessing for others, saying five times:

“Here lay your hearts, your flowers,
Your Book of Hours,
Your fingers, your thumbs,
Your “Miss You Mums”.
Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might Have Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.”

4. Bardic offerings.
Perform a short poem or song from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, or something of your own dedicated to The Goose or to Beltane.

Here’s John Crow’s seasonal offering (lyrics John Constable; music Mark Eye; video Martin ‘Scooby’ Wood):



Know that, whoever, wherever, you are, Goose be with you!

5. Closing.
Close the ceremony with a libation of gin. Say:

“Life! Health! Happiness! Open Pathways!
Health in the Body.
Peace In the Spirit.
Love In The Heart.
It is this that we wish,
for ourselves,
for our friends and family,
for all our Brothers and Sisters,
for The Goose and The Crow,
and for all Humanity.
May it be so.”

then:

“Goose may you never be hungry!
Goose may you never be thirsty!
Goose may your Spirit fly free!”

And so she does…

Open pathways!

>><<

St George’s Day Crossbones Vigil (on the Astral)

When? 7pm on 23rd April 2020. Where? Wherever you are.

At 7pm on the 23rd of every month since June 2004, we’ve gathered in the street by the Crossbones shrine in Redcross Way – to honour the Outcast, dead and alive; to renew the shrine; and to reclaim the Secret History as revealed by The Goose to John Crow on 23rd November 1996. Our St George’s Day Vigil is traditionally one of our best attended Vigils, in which we honour George as an international patron, a healing energy and a protector of spiritual works..

Last month, 23rd March 2020, because of the restrictions on public gatherings, we couldn’t be there in the flesh. However, people from all over the world participated in Spirit, conducting the simple ritual acts in their own homes. We invite you all to do so again on 23rd April.

Here’s our basic ‘order of service’ – with opening, 3 ritual observances and closing. Create your own ‘street altar’ and be with us in Spirit. Like this:

1. Opening (on the stroke of 7pm)
Light a candle, incense, libation to the Goose. Ring seven chimes.
Say: ‘Spirits of The Dead, Spirits of the Living, Kindred. Welcome!’

2. Holding the Light (and the Dark)
Hold a candle for one minutes silence as you stand in shining emptiness. Imagine you’re lighting the open pathways for all beings to fulfill their most intimate aspirations.

3. “Binding and loosing”
Imagine tying a ribbon to the shrine at Crossbones Gates. Invest the ribbon with all that you would wish for yourself, and as you tie the ribbon, release that blessing for others. “See” the ribbons flutter in the wind.
Say five times:

‘Here lay your hearts, your flowers,
Your Book of Hours,
Your fingers, your thumbs,
Your “Miss You Mums”.
Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might Have Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.’

4. Bardic offerings to The Goose
Perform a short poem or song from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, or something of your own dedicated to The Goose. Know that, whoever, wherever, you are, Goose be with you!

5. Closing
Close the ceremony with a libation and a sip of gin (if you have some and fancy a nip). Say:

“Life! Health! Happiness! Open Pathways!
Health in the Body.
Peace In the Spirit.
Love In The Heart.
It is this that we wish,
for ourselves,
for our friends and family,
for all our Brothers and Sisters,
for The Goose and The Crow,
and for all Humanity.
May it be so.”

“Goose may you never be hungry!
Goose may you never be thirsty!
Goose may your Spirit fly free!”

And so she does…

When conducting the ritual, the aim is to get out of the way, allowing The Goose to work her magic through you. It helps to cultivate a state of “shining emptiness”, especially during the holding of the light. In this empty state, allow all sounds, sights, smells and other sense impressions to arise and vanish, with nothing for anything to attach to.

Over the fifteen and more years that I conducted the ceremony in my John Crow persona, I sometimes had to let go of whatever personal anxieties or anguish I was carrying. I found it helpful to remind myself that “I am Nothing. Thou Art!” – that it wasn’t me doing it, but John Crow and that he was there simply to serve The Goose and all Spirits, incarnate and disincarnate, who may be communing with us.

Since 23rd November 2019, when I handed on the hosting of the Vigils to a Magical Collective of Friends of Crossbones, I said that whoever facillitates this ritual, irrespective of gender, is the ‘John Crow’. If it helps you to get out of the way, please feel free to be the John Crow – and remember, at the heart of our work is play!

Goose be with us!

Open pathways!

JC >><<

Crossbones Vigil for the Outcast and Vernal Equinox

All are invited to the 190th Crossbones Vigil, held at the gates to the graveyard in Redcross Way. Starting on the dot of 7pm.

We remember all those cornerstones who have upheld society with little to no recognition or outright rejection. We remember our dearly departed. We honour the locality of this some-time single-women’s graveyard, plague pit, and burial-space of ‘social undesirables’. And in-so-doing, we become present to the spirit of the outcast throughout history, helping people to bridge past, present and future in shining emptiness.

‘Here lay your hearts,
your flowers,
your book of hours;

Your fingers,
your thumbs,
your miss-you-mum’s.

Here hang your hopes,
your dreams
your might’ve-beens;

Your locks,
your keys,
your mysteries.’

We welcome any personal poems, prayers, memories and reflections. We hold especially this time round the Vernal Equinox: Spring, where Old Man Winter has loosened his grip, the shadows get shorter, the future looks warm, and festivity begins a new phase. We tie ribbons, share stories, sow seeds.

Come all who are hungry or thirsty for a spot of magic in the bustle – a chance to stop, wait, and listen to what the goose is saying.

Open Pathways.

(written by Mark)

poem ‘Here lay your hearts…’
from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ by John Constable

Cross Bones Vigil

Sunday 23.02 2020
7pm in the street by the shrine in Redcross Way, London SE1

Mark (in photo, to right of speaker Jules) is one of the ‘John Crows’ who’ve taken on conducting the Vigils . He writes: 

Everyone is invited to the 189th Vigil for the Outcast, both dead and alive. We gather at the Portal at 6.45 to begin at 7 pm. Standing together, in Shining Emptiness, we Honour The Outcast, refresh and renew the shrine and reclaim the Goose and her Liberty.

Welcoming all religions and none, please bring your creativity, ribbons, grief and joy to the second of our Vigils of 2020.

This community started with a vision: a vision of human, God(s) and beast united; we hold the light, we remember, we celebrate and we honour those cornerstones of society who were in life rejected and forgotten.

Here lay your hearts,
your flowers,
your book of hours;

Your fingers,
your thumbs,
your miss-you-mum’s.

Here hang your hopes,
your dreams
your might’ve-beens;

Your locks,
your keys,
your mysteries.

This liminal space between Imbolc and Equinox is a time to gather ourselves for the coming growth, to share stories and poems which embody this time of year.

Come for some peace in the bustle.

Come to remember.

Open Pathways.

Cross Bones Vigil: portal to Imbolc

Thursday 23rd January 2020

The 188th consecutive Vigil for the Outcast, dead and alive, held in the stereet by the shrine in Redcross Way, London SE1, at 7pm on the 23rd of every month.

Following their hosting of the Christmas Vigil, during 2020 the new Magical Collective will conduct the Crossbones Vigils for the Outcast, each taking on the role of the John Crow to serve The Goose. MC Jennifer has already conducted a number of Vigils in the last few years. She writes:

Everyone is invited to the 188th Vigil for the Outcast, both dead and alive. We gather at the Portal at 6.45 to begin at 7 pm. Standing together, in Shining Emptiness, we Honour The Outcast, refresh and renew the shrine and reclaim the sacred Teachings of the Goose and her Liberty. Welcoming all religions and none, please bring your creativity, ribbons, grief and joy to the first of our Vigils of 2020. Open Pathways.”

Photo and artfefact (‘web of light’ – crochet and withy) by Katy Nicholls

Christmas Crossbones Vigil

Monday 23rd December, gather 6.45 for 7pm in the street by the shrine in Redcross Way – all welcome

On 23rd November 2019, John Constable aka Crow hosted his last Vigil, completing 23 years of active service to The Goose. The Vigils will continue, hosted by Jennifer, Jules, Mark, Maya, John M and the others in the magical collective. Although JC no longer NEEDS to be here, he WILL be here for the 23rd December 2019 Vigil, and no doubt many more in the 2020s, because he WANTS to be here! What better place to honour the Outcast, the Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hannukah and seasonal feasts of all faiths and none! Come join us. There will be carols – and maybe even a cover version reprise of Frank Turner’s ‘The Graveyard of the Outcast Dead’ which Frank himself sang at the previous Vigil. About tonight, here’s Jennifer: 

“When the Red Gates become the Portal between the living and the dead. We stand together, whether there are 300 or only 3, to Honour the Outcast, both dead, alive and yet to be, to refresh and renew the shrine and to reclaim the Secret History of the Goose and Her Crossbones Graveyard.

After 23 years of dedicated service to the Goose, the Crow has Flown. His wings uplifted on all the love and gratitude of the many who have been inspired by the Goose’s Teachings and the story of Crossbones.

But the Spirit of Crow lives on and his Walking Talking Shoes will be filled by the Magical Collective who will facilitate the Vigils in future.

The John Crow Spirit Voice will lead us as we light our Open Pathways candle and stand in a minute’s silence the Honour the Outcast, rising and falling with the sounds of the city as we enter the Shining Emptiness. The John Crow Voice and all our voices will rise together as we offer our Gifts to the Gates and will introduce the Offerings, where people can step forward and gift their own creativity to the Goose at the Gates. And at the end of the Vigil when we bind our Worlds together in the Gin Ritual, the spirit of the Goose and Crow will be with us all as we offer our Unconditional Blessing of Life! Health! Happiness! and offer the Goose Blessing…

Goose, may you never be hungry,
Goose, may you never be thirsty,
Goose, may your Spirit fly free!

And so She doe”

For those of you who don’t know Jennifer, here she is being droll with Crow at the last Vigil

Cross Bones Vigil, Goose Night and Crow’s Swan Song

23rd November 2019

‘Goose Night’ – 23rd anniversary of the night of 23rd November 1996 when The Goose revealed ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ to John Crow at Cross Bones Graveyard. This was also the 186th consecutive monthly Vigil, and the last to be personally conducted by John Constable in his shamanistic Crow persona. 23 years of literary, dramatic and magical works climaxed and were ritually closed this night.

The open pathways lit in shining emptiness. 138 ribbons (2 x 69 or 6 x 23) tied to the gates, renewing the shrine, and the remembrance poem ‘Here lay your Hearts, your flowers, your Book of Hours…’ echoed 11 times. There still weren’t enough ribbons to go around but everyone got to touch the portal and to look through the bars of the gate into the garden with the Mary shrine, lit up with a Grand Cross of candles, the lights flickering in the shadows of the graveyard.

Black Swan Border Morris danced before the beribboned gates, fit to wake the dead with their pipes and drums, their wild howls and clacking staffs, their top hats and swirling tatter-coats.

For John Crow, Katy Kaos, and the 300-odd incarnate spirits packed around the shrine to the Outcast on Redcross Way, The Goose was well and truly with us.

The self-styled Crow Shaman was ritually purified by veteran interventionist Raga with her African broom.

John Crow then  performed the first part of ‘The Book of The Goose’, received in this place on this night 23 years ago.

Cross Bones Graveyard has inspired many artists. On this special night, folk punk indie star Frank Turner stepped up to perform his new song ‘The Graveyard of the Outcast Dead’, sending shivers down spines.

Goose Rhapsode Jennifer delivered ‘By The Grace of Our Lady Mary Overie’, from ‘The Book of The Goose’.

Then John Crow completed ‘The Book of The Goose’, the original poem from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, ending with the words : “And Her Name is Liberty!”

And to top it all, Jules’ Spot. At pretty much every Vigil for the past couple of years Jules Allen has presented a different take on synchronicity and serendipity, riffing off various characters and stories linked with Cross Bones, Southwark and us. Tonight, he was on top form – even got 300 people joining on with his scintillating evocation of the number 23!

Gratitude to all of you, and to all of you who were here with us in the eternal now of our Goose Night – such a powerful communion, kith and kin, so many dear friends and family from so many phases of the twenty-three year site-specific performance and magical work, who have each in your own ways helped nurture and manifest the vision of our Cross Bones Graveyard.

Our Holy Place of the Sex Worker and the Outsider, The Goose and her Outcast Dead.

Thanks to Natalie and Lucy for lighting up the shrine in the garden. Thanks again, Jules and Jenn, for your exemplary work as Goose Samurai, demonstrating true service to The Goose.
Thank you Hej and Joseph and BOST for arranging a surprise after-party for Katy and I and everyone – and for presenting Old Man Crow with a blue-tooth speaker for my years of active service. 😉

Thanks, Marco, for the awesome carved raven staff – and for telling me the touching and inspiring story behind it! Thanks to all of you who gave us beautiful presents.

So many of you I want to thank, so many names spring to mind as I write this now, but like I said at the after party, the deeper you get into naming, the more hurting it is for the ones who accidentally don’t get name-checked. You know who you are, and how much you’ve brought to the great adventure!

Rest assured, your Crow will walk The Goose to the end of the line. Kaos and he are not “retiring” from Cross Bones, simply closing Crow’s ancient contract to serve The Goose for twenty-three full years. Done. Now, Goose willing, we’re free to have some fun with it all.

The Goose is loose in The Liberty.

JC, Southwark 23/11/2019

Photos by Max Crow Reeves
Photo of candle-cross at Mary shrine by Nicholas Greaves

Cross Bones Vigil – Goose Night – Crow’s Swan Song

Saturday 23rd November 2019

gather 6.45 for 7pm Vigil in the street by the shrine in Redcross Way, London SE1. Nearest tubes: Borough or London Bridge  (Borough High St. exit)

On 23rd November 1996, in visions and verses, The Goose revealed to John Crow the Secret History of Cross Bones.

Saturday 23rd November 2019 is the 23rd anniversary of this “Goose Night”, which inspired ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ and the magical works at Cross Bones Graveyard, The Halloween of Cross Bones and the Vigils held on the 23rd of every month since June 2004.

Along with our time-honoured ritual observances, John Crow will seal 23 years of active service with a performance of ‘The Book of The Goose’, assisted by Goose Rhapsodes Jennifer and Ross.

Black Swan Border Morris will dance, and a special guest will sing. Please note that at this Vigil there will be no public offerings.

This will be the 186th consecutive monthly Vigil and the last one to be personally conducted by John Crow. After this, the Vigils will continue, hosted by the Magical Collective with individual members taking on ‘The John Crow’ role.

Free! Donations welcome. 

Photo by Max Crow Reeves: John Crow Constable at the Vigil held on the 20th anniversary of Goose Night, 23rd November 2016 

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