by John Constable - aka John Crow

Photo on gates shows skull from Cross Bones excavation (photo: Max Reeves)The hermetic teachings comprising The Southwark Mysteries were first revealed to my shamanic familiar John Crow on the night of 23rd November 1996, at Cross Bones Graveyard in south London, by the spirit of The Goose.

Goose, as in Winchester Goose. A medieval whore from the Liberty of the Clink, outside the law of the City of London. Licensed by the church, by the Bishop of Winchester, yet allegedly buried in unconsecrated ground. Her bones unearthed when London Underground dug up Cross Bones, the ancient burial ground for prostitutes and paupers.

Her ‘Secret History’ was revealed in Her astral journeys and conversations with John Crow. The ‘Constable’ part of me was merely a witness and scribe, recording the archaic verses in a form of channelled writing. Yet I also journeyed with them, in body, up Redcross Way to the rusty iron gates of the works depot, where the spirit voices became more insistent:



For tonight in Hell
They are tolling the bell
For the Whore that lay at The Tabard,
And well we know
How the carrion crow
Doth feast in our Crossbones Graveyard.

When John Crow set out to serve The Goose, he believed that his work was to heal a wounded spirit. She taught him that such healing is mutual, and that She is Herself a powerful healer. To think of Her as a ghost, or to identify Her with any one of Her outcast dead - like that skull of a young woman scarred by syphilis which has featured in major archaeological exhibitions – is to mistake Her. She embraces many of those lost histories, yet is unconfined in any one of them. She bears traces of Her many mortal incarnations, yet also reveals Herself as emissary and emanation of the Divine Feminine:

… the Questioning Divinity
Who asks Herself ‘What am I
To permit such wanton misery?’

And Compassion for all Souls that dwell
In shadows of mortality
Compelling Her to take on very
Flesh of that infirmity,

Until She’s born a crafty whore,
Stewed in a Southwark hostelry […]
The Goddess that on Judgement Day
Shall stand by Man and make his Plea.

Inside the gates, Red Cross Mary mediates between Christian and pagan mystical streams (photo: Katie Nicholls)And the source of these teachings? The Goose hints at a Roman cult of Isis, a Magdalene lineage transmitted in the songs and tales of Bankside whores and actors. There are echoes of Elen of the Ways and other native Goddesses. But above and below and in and beyond all, Goose is Goose, genius loci and living embodiment of her own teaching: ‘the Spirit  in the flesh, the Sacred in the profane, Eternity in time.’

The Goose is not a Deity sat in judgement on high. She’s the Goddess on the shop floor, who walks the walk, gets down, gets her hands dirty:

I am hag Ceridwen with Her raw red rag on.
I am Kali, razor in the flash and slash.

I am the light in the shadow revealing.
I am the Grace that transfigures the Sin.
I am the Wound that prefigures the Healing.
I am the Light at the Traveller’s Inn.

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’.

She’s Isis binding the dismembered god… Inanna on her journey down to the underworld… Kwan Yin… Tara… Compassionate mediatrix and protectress of the outcast:

By the Grace of Our Lady Mary Overie
Let them see the shining eyes of Our Goddess of Mercy.

John Crow sweeps the portal, Halloween of Cross Bones 2005 (photo Max Reeves)

We may conceive of Her as a line of transmission for a living intelligence. She and John Crow are shape-shifters, Trickster teachers, speaking in tongues beyond literal meanings. Theirs is not a religion or a fixed belief system, but an unfolding vision:

A Vision of Humanity,
Man God and Beast communing
For one moment in Eternity.
Cross Bones Memorial gates - plaque (photo: Katie Nicholls)The practice at the Cross Bones Portal is guided by this vision, and by the power of ‘remembrance’. The gates in Redcross Way, London SE1, have been transformed into a people’s shrine. We gather there on the 23rd of each month for a 7pm vigil to honour the outcast dead with tokens of beauty - and also to remember who we are:

Here hang your hopes, your dreams,
Your Might Have Beens,
Your locks, your keys,
Your Mysteries.

The Halloween of Cross Bones has been conducted every Samhain since 1998. This ritual performance of magical texts from The Southwark Mysteries is followed by a candle-lit procession to the shrine. Those buried here are honoured as representatives of all outcasts. The gates are decked with ribbons bearing the names of the dead, and with totems, talismans and candles to light the open pathways.

People of all faiths and traditions – and of NONE – are welcome to join us in these inclusive, humanitarian vigils and rituals. Come and weave your own  spells of protection and healing. Become part of a transformational work that utilises everyday magic – from seeking to influence decision makers to tending the shrine and the ‘invisible garden’. The Cross Bones Portal is open for all to use in selfless acts of love and compassionate service.

© John Constable, Southwark 2008