Cross Bones Blessing and Celebration

Sunday 21 July – 12.30 to 5pm – in Cross Bones Garden of Remembrance

Crossbones blessing and celebration of St Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day – and John Constable’s 67th birthday

For the fifth successive year, The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd. Andrew Nunn, conducts a special service at Crossbones, the unconsecrated outcasts’ burial ground.  This ‘Act of Regret, Remembrance, Restoration’ expresses the church’s regret for the treatment of the ‘Winchester Geese’, the sex workers who worked in the Bankside brothels licensed by the Bishop of Winchester, yet were allegedly denied Christian burial. It’s also a powerful statement of the Cathedral’s support for the protection of Crossbones Garden.

The service will be followed by a performance of poems and songs inspired by Crossbones, then a picnic in the garden. Free and open to all. Under 16s please bring a responsible adult.

12.30 The Dean and clergy leave Southwark Cathedral in procession. (You can join the procession on the west side of the Cathedral, or gather with us to greet them at Crossbones)
1pm The Dean conducts the ‘Act of Regret, Remembrance, Restoration’ at Crossbones
1.30 John Constable conducts a short guided tour of Cross Bones history and myth
2pm John Constable and Kirsten Morrison lead a performance of poems and songs inspired by Cross Bones Graveyard and dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Bring your own short poem or song to share.
2.30 After the performance there’ll be a picnic in Crossbones Garden to celebrate St Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day (which falls on 22nd July) – and John’s 67th Birthday.

Refreshments will be provided. Please bring snacks and drinks to share, minimizing packaging and taking any rubbish away with you.

The Importance of Crossbones to local Southwark history

Florence Eshalomi, London Assembly Member for Southwark & Lambeth, spells it out.

This week’s Southwark News (June 20) also has features on what’s happening at and around Crossbones on Sunday 23rd June 2019: 

The Great Get Together Bankside 2019 Crossbones Garden of Remembrance will be open from early afternoon until 6pm, with events happening all round the neighborhood
The St John’s Eve Crossbones Vigil  Gather 6.45 for 7pm in the street by the shrine in Redcross Way: to remember the outcast, dead and alive; to renew the shrine; to honour Jo Cox and other victims of fascism; and to celebrate the summer solstice

Hail The Queen of The May!

A balmy summer’s evening for the May 23rd 2019 Vigil – our 180th, completing 15 years of being here at 7pm on the 23rd of every month.

John Crow did the honours with Jennifer Cooper – he took us into being shining emptiness and she tuned us in with Rob, who was tuning in with us from Australia (at 4am Oz time) to honour his sister (who took her own life)  and to work on his own healing. We gave ourselves away as we tied our red and white ribbons to the gates. Many enhanced the experience by bringing their own ribbons to tie.

Then Crow kicked off the offerings with his Beltane chant, with everyone joining in on “Hail The Queen of the May!” Irene led the singing of the Crossbones anthem. Jules spoke on Rosicrucian connections – elucidating the esoteric significance of Katy’s rose-cross. Hannah read her poem inspired by the Vigil and spoke of the joys of being a Crossbones warden (more welcome!). Ian sang medieval songs of Spring. Hana spoke of stepping outside her comfort zone and speaking to a stranger. Drew sang The Coldest Kiss, haunting…

Lucy turned up just in time to say goodbye to her dead Grandmother, who’d disowned her when she was a child and whose funeral was today (Lucy wasn’t invited). And Claudia and Jonathan related the pilgrimage of ‘The 69ers’ from Cerne to CERN where, on 23rd April, they had enacted a psychic link-up with last month’s Vigil.

Another night of revelation, healing and transformation. Or just another Crossbones Vigil…  

Great to have so many Friends, long-standing or new-found, with us, all sharing their energy and concentration to boost the magic – including Graham Eden, who took these photos.

The heroic Goose Samurai kept us all safe from harm – and specifically by closing the road to save us from being mown down by traffic. We closed as ever with the Unconditional Blessing – Baixinha’s Message of the Caboclo, followed by ‘Goose Let Your Spirit fly free.’ And so She does!

St George’s Day Vigil

And a goodly St George’s Crossbones Vigil for the Outcast it was replete with open pathway lightings, heart hangings, a spell to link us with the Pilgrims at CERN, “The Goose is loose in The Liberty” said x 23, Rhapsodes – Mark Juhan with ‘The Book of the Egyptian’, John Crow with ‘George and The Dragon Rap’, and Jennifer Cooper with ‘The Mystery of George and Martha’, healing the dragon and reclaiming George as an inclusive patron saint and protector of our healing works, then Maggie Woodall reading a poem she was given at Extinction Rebellion, Roddy McDevitt doing his own beautiful Compassion poem, and Drew Galdron his prayer for the warriors, Katy Kaos’ alchemical rose cross decoded, Danny Nemu, Gilda, Jana and Sophia singing songs for Sao Jorge and Ogum, with infant prodigy Samuel clapping along, Jules on the inspirational legacy of John Michell, all culminating in a terrific subversive piece of street theatre in which St George was persuaded to allow his daughter Britannia to marry The Dragon – whereupon she dropped the bombshell: “I’ve not only married a dragon. I am the Mother of Dragons!”

😉 We closed with gin and unconditional blessings. Huge respect to the Goose Samurai who held the road.

Last call for comments re. Planning Application affecting Cross Bones Graveyard

As reported in an earlier post, Joint Venture, a partnership between Transport for London (TfL) and the developer U+I, have submitted an application for a development at Landmark Court, the land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard. The application is available to view on the Southwark Planning Register (Ref: 19/AP/0830) – on that page, you can click on the ‘comments’ button to comment on the proposal.

The official deadline for comments to be submitted to Southwark Council has passed, but the Council will still accept comments if you get them in soon) You can access all the documents on the Planning Register. U+I have included a link and key documents on their own website

Cross Bones shrine and Garden of Remembrance 20th June 2019

John Constable aka John Crow writes: Katy and I are no longer actively involved in the management of the Garden of Remembrance. For the rest of this, our 23rd year of active service to The Goose and her Outcast Dead, we’ll focus on the Vigils and the transmission of The Mysteries, the spiritual heart of our work “in eternity” – of which the shrine and the garden are manifestations in time. To celebrate life in all in imperfection! We wish Bankside Open Spaces Trust fortitude and vision in their stewardship of the the Cross Bones Graveyard. We hope they’ll honour the vision of a wild, DIY garden of remembrance for sex workers and other outsiders.

Alchemical Rose Cross crochet by Katy Nicholls, Crossbones shrine to the outcast

We’ve devoted ourselves to this work since 23rd November 1996 and, Goose willing, we’ll close our magical cycle of 23 years on at the Vigil on 23rd November 2019. On the deepest level, our work is done. We’ve put everything into it, and the rewards have been immeasurable. We feel blessed to have lived to witness these manifestations of The Goose Vision. We trust that other “John Crows” will appear to serve The Goose and to continually re-imagine Cross Bones as a sacred place, a wild sanctuary in the heart of the city.

We’ll still tend the shrine, and water the garden when needed. Today we spent a beautiful afternoon at Crossbones doing just that. Katy hung her new crochet alchemical rose cross on the gates – ready to reclaim St George on his Day! – along with the new heart-board, chalked with “Resistance is fertile” (in solidarity with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion actions).

“Resistance is fertile” – first message chalked on the new heart-board

I swept and cleaned the shrine, Katy watered some thirsty plants and picked some flowers for Red Cross Mary…

Red Cross Mary, Cross Bones Graveyard shrine, 20th April 2019 – photo by Katy Nicholls

… and pasted a protective icon in the place of the suicides.

Note: Gabriella Leite (pictured smoking, bottom right) did not take her own life. A Brazilian sex worker and activist, she inspired the poor people of the favelas. We stand in solidarity with the Brazilian people in their suffering. She found her own place here, bringing light to the troubled souls who felt compelled to choose the exit door, and those they leave behind.

The solitary bees were buzzing in and out of their cells – though not in this photo! 🙂 In this one small part of this crazy world, all’s well.

Solitary bee hotel. Photo by Katy Nicholls

Here where the bones are crossed
be hallowed ground.

Here let the names that were lost
be found.

Shut out in days of old
the outcast dead…

Here bring them in from the cold
to be watered and fed.

Here let the ties that bind
against forgetfulness

light candles, build shrines
in the wilderness.

The Hallowing of Cross Bones Yard
from Spark In The Dark by John Constable aka John Crow (Thin Man Press)

A playful spell to transform our maps of reality

This Tuesday 23rd April at 2.23pm Geneva time (1.23pm UK time) a post-Discordian* collective of 69 (3 x 23) pilgrims (skippered by Daisy Campbell along with Michelle, Tommy, Jonathan, Myra, Dolly and many friends who have stood with us at the portal for the Crossbones Vigils) will perform a ritual at CERN, Switzerland, home of the Hadron Collider and the Quest for the Higgs Boson. They will use the sacred dance language of Damanhur to say: “Show us so we can understand.”

All devotees of the repatterning power of 23 are invited to connect with the CERN PilGRINS at 1.23pm UK time on 23rd April. Just relax, tune into shining emptiness, envision our friends dancing in the Quantum Heart and say 23 times: “Show us so we can understand.” You’re welcome to join us at the Crossbones gates / shrine at 1.23pm to amplify the connection ready for the evening Vigil. For so it is…

Later, this Tuesday 23rd April at 7pm, we embark on the 179th Crossbones Vigil for the Outcast at the ribboned gates in Redcross Way, London SE1.

At 7.23pm (or as near as) we shall say 23 times: “The Goose is loose in The Liberty.” – thereby invoking and evoking not only the historical Liberty of the Clink but also that state of Unconditioned Mind wherein contrary energies dance new patterns into being.

At this precise moment (8.23pm Geneva time), the CERN PilGRINS will say 23 times:
“The Goose is loose in the Liberty.”

And so she is…

We’ll then continue to reclaim St George as an inclusive patron, Our Lady’s Knight and protector of the healing works at Crossbones. The April 23rd Vigil traditionally features street theatre – there are rumours of a return visit from St George. And a trickster Dragon?

Among the other offerings:
Healing George and The Dragon raps from The Southwark Mysteries performed by John and Jennifer, and The Book of the Egyptian performed by Goose Rhapsode Mark
Brazilian songs for Jorge and Ogum by Danny, Gilda and family
Katy’s new crochet alchemical rose cross hung on the portal
Jules speaks on John Michell (who passed away April 24th ten years ago), JM’s vision of Avalon, and Jules’ own encounter with him at Crossbones…
And surely someone will want to say a few words on Extinction Rebellion and the brave young canaries in this 21st century coal-mine.

All this unfolding within our time-honoured rituals for the outcast, dead and alive – and the magic that only happens on the night. Gather 6.45 for the Vigil to begin on the stroke of seven. Come prepared to participate and to do a short shift of honour as a Goose Samurai! To be amazed, and be changed.


ps if you want to help build up the charge, you can tune into Crossbones, and CERN, and other holy places you desire to re-active in the healing and transformation of HUMAN RITES for our future as creative, harmonious incarnations of Life On Earth

Crossbones gates with Our Lady Banner by Jennifer Cooper – photo by Jörg, 23rd March 2019

*post-Discordians: those previously inspired by The Illuminatus Trilogy and other works of Robert Anton Wilson, and especially by the cult of Eris, Greek Goddess of Discord, and the power of the number 23 to disrupt our models of reality, who have come to question such techniques as “Fake News” and sowing confusion, especially now that they’ve been so successfully appropriated by Trumpism, Farrargasm and the Far Right. These post-Discordians are, as we understand it, attempting to “Immanentize the Eschaton” (a phrase quoted in The Southwark Mysteries: The Bankside Book of Revelation). Not to be taken literally, as causing the end of the world, but rather as breaking apart outmoded maps, models and projections of the world, so as to allow new patterns to manifest.

The Pilgrims invocation-evocation was received in a dream by Kate Alderton. Their pilgrimage is rooted in the feminine mysteries, boosted by male energies: it began in the phallus of the Cerne Abbas giant; it will culminate when they dance the spell: “Show us so we can understand” at CERN, on the site of the Large Hadron Collider. Imaginatively twinning the site with Cerne Abbas – and Crossbones – the PilGRINS have renamed it the Large Hard-on Collider.

It’s only a play…

Crossbones Vigil – Spring Equinox

Thanks to all who came to light the open pathways at yet another moving, magical Vigil for the Outcas. To Mark who stepped up to elucidate how we embody the spiritual light – and performed Larkin’s beautiful Spring poem. To Jennifer who showed us the lotus she had cut from a precious Australian stone – given to her by Rob, who last October had us all in tears when he read aloud his sister’s suicide note – and helped muster the magnificent Goose Samurai to close Redcross Way from traffic during the Vigil. To Jules who once more set a shining example to all Goose Samurai – and read poems sent by John Cooper Clarke, Leo Marks, Jo Brand and Jane Hirshfield for Katy and John’s wedding, whose forthcoming anniversary we also celebrated. To Sarah Jayne who read her friend’s poem about how we remember our dead with the dates of their birth “dash” death, and how our lives are fully lived “in the dash”. To Ian who sang a plaintiff ballad for a sex worker, Irene who sang the ‘Crossbones’ anthem, Richie who whistled and sang his healing song for Albion, Raga who shared juicy fruit to mark the Spring Equinox, and Ross who told how his Goddess In London tours all lead to our Crossbones Shrine – then recited ‘A Song of Innocence’ from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, and we all honoured “the part whereof each one of us is torn.” To Julia who raised the sap with her powerful Desire poem, and Danny who responded with his own vision of a beast “caged” but not broken.

John Crow, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

John Crow opened and closed the sharing of offerings with poems from The Southwark Mysteries – ‘Son of Man In The Street’, in which Jesus identifies with the outcast and the outsider, and ‘I Am The Wind’:

I’ll be your icon, your Muse, your conceit.
I’ll be whatever you would have me be.
I’ll be Mary Magdalene washing your feet
If it helps you see through
What divides “you” from “me”.

The gates with Our Lady banner by Jennifer, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

It being the evening after the big march, we celebrated both our British and European identities, affirming our resistance to fascism without demonising anyone who still believes in the B-word. Thanks to Laure (L’or ?) a French comrade who held the light for the open pathways blessing, to Emma, Rma, Mervyn, Matthew, Marco, Paul, James, Lana, Michaela, Pete, Marina, Jörg and Xandi. To Dolly and Myra who revealed their plan to create a telepathic link from Cern (site of the Large Hadron Collider, where a Discordian crew will attempt to Immanentize the Eschaton) to Crossbones at our next Vigil on 23rd April. To Joanna who will likewise be tuning in from Findhorn (let’s light up the world!) To Katy, and to everyone else who was there to witness or helped make it all happen in ways that easily go unnoticed.

Testimony, Crossbones Vigil, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

Through the gates we glimpsed The Shard with two red eyes blinking – yet with no power to hold us. There were many small moments of magic for which – well, you had to be there! Love beams out to all of you who were with us in thought.

All this and, as ever, our performance of the rituals that have held us here at Crossbones Shrine on the 23rd night of every month since June 2004: lighting the open pathways, tying the ribbons to ‘Hear lay your hearts, your flowers, your Book of Hours…’ through to the final rousing Unconditional Blessing: ‘Goose may your Spirit fly free!’ (And so she does!)

Planning Application for land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard

Joint Venture, a partnership between Transport for London (TfL) and the developer U+I, have submitted an application for a development at Landmark Court, the land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard. The application is available to view on the Southwark Planning Register (Ref: 19/AP/0830) – on that page, you can click on the ‘comments’ button to comment on the proposal.

Comments can be submitted to Southwark Council until Friday 19 April. (The Council may accept comments after that, but best to have them in by then.) You can access all the documents on the Planning Register. U+I have included a link and key documents on their own website

The developers, Joint Venture, have consulted with Friends of Crossbones and other local people. The planning application makes clear that Crossbones Graveyard will be protected and enhanced as a Garden of Remembrance. The shrine in Redcross Way will also be protected. Friends of Crossbones have made the case that Crossbones must not be treated simply as a generic Open Space, but as a special case, entitled to specific protection as:

  • a protected graveyard and memorial garden
  • an historical, cultural, environmental and community asset
  • a sacred space of spiritual significance to many people

In your own comments, you may like to mention your connection with Crossbones, why the shrine and the garden of remembrance are important to you and the wider community.  You might mention how Crossbones has evolved as:

  • a DIY, wild garden of remembrance for ‘the outcast dead’ who’re buried in the Crossbones Graveyard, and is especially dedicated to sex workers and other outsiders
  • a sanctuary in the heart of the city, a place for people to remember those buried there and their own lost loved ones, and to reconnect with the past
  • it’s NOT a blank canvas – any proposed improvements should be judged on whether they really enhance what is already here, rather than imposing a ‘top down’ vision. Such innovations should respect the history of the graveyard AND the more recent works to reclaim it as sacred ground.

In our discussions with Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST), the charity that currently manages the Crossbones Garden, it was agreed that we’re all free to comment in our own words on anything we support or object to – AND that it’s helpful if our key messages are broadly the same:

1. Crossbones Graveyard is a destination and a sanctuary not a thoroughfare. We strongly oppose the proposal to install a new entrance gate in the middle of the north side railing, which would seriously impact on the character of the Garden of Remembrance. The garden is designed as a walled space, a sanctuary in the heart of the City, to be entered via the beautiful ‘Goose Wing’ entrance on Union Street where visitors are welcomed by wardens. People taking short-cuts through the garden, via a new gate in the  north, would disturb its peace and tranquillity.

2. Crossbones is deserving of proper stewardship. TFL/U+I/Joint Venture are responsible for maintaining this important cultural, community and spiritual heritage site. TfL as freeholder is responsible for the long-term stewardship of the site as a protected graveyard and memorial garden of historic and cultural importance. The planning application should make clear that Crossbones Graveyard is an exceptional case – NOT simply ‘other open space’ – and is NOT to be used as an amenity for the adjoining development.

3. Joint Venture should issue a long term lease for Crossbones Garden of Remembrance to match the lease for the adjoining development (299 years / in perpetuity) and agree an associated management agreement with BOST which reflects Crossbones importance as a heritage site.
The lease for the adjoining Landmark Court development will be 299 years. There is concern that BOST has so far been offered only a 25 year lease to manage the Crossbones Garden. This gives no guarantee for the longer term future of the garden, and makes it difficult for BOST to raise additional funds.

4. Funding should be assured throughout the life of the lease for site supervision (wardens) and maintenance. If any of the above comments, suggestions or demands resonate with you, please include them in your comments (in your own words). Please do what you can to help ensure that Crossbones will continue as a garden of remembrance and shrine to the outcast, dead and alive.

Crossbones Vigil

Saturday 23rd March 2019

At 6.45pm we gather at Crossbones Graveyard – in the street at the shrine in Redcross Way SE1. The Vigil begins on the stroke of 7pm.

Crossbones Shrine, 23rd March 2012. Photo by Katy Nicholls

This will be the 178th successive Vigil, held at this time, on this day, every month since June 2004! We perform our time-honoured rituals to renew the shrine, to remember the outcast, dead and alive, and to relive the secret history as revealed by The Goose to John Crow. We light the open pathways, hang our hopes and dreams in ribbons tied to the gate, and close with our unconditional blessings. At the heart of the Vigil, there’s space for those who wish to share a poem, song or brief personal testimony connected with Crossbones and “outsiders” of all kinds.

This month marks the Spring Equinox when we balance the darkness of the Crossbones story with the new light rising there. It’s also the portal to the first anniversary of Katy and John’s wedding and celebration of friendship, which was attended by many Friends of Crossbones. For this months “Jules’ spot”, our resident speaker Jules will read out poems and well-wishings by John Cooper Clarke and Jo Brand, which Jules had solicited but which, in the happy chaos of the day, remained unread.

You are invited to bring your own memento, totemic object or ribbon to tie to the gate. For those who forget, ribbons may be provided – though creating your own offering deepens your experience of The Goose and her grace. Please also be ready to serve a few minutes as a Goose Samurai, helping close the road to keep us all alive. This is the highest honour that any participant can receive, and enables us all to experience the many facets of the Crossbones Vigil.   

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