Issue 26, Flashes of Fire

Tonight, it is Solstice and I’m out with the boy who biological and social convention would call my son, looking for the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter between bruised rainclouds.

This curly-headed boy, on the cusp between boyhood and teenage, remains an unfashionably early riser. Heavy-eyed, clasping a flask of hot chocolate, he’s thrilled to be out here, past his bedtime, by Aslan’s Stone Table, in Narnia.

We moved, during the pandemic, to this valley, circled by The Black Mountains, Radnor Hills and The Malverns, that inspired the Tales of Narnia. In the charcoal darkness, the Neolithic burial chamber and shrine, the model for The Stone Table sacrifice of Aslan (a Christ-like lion) crouches greenly. Its nine flanking stones and 25 tonne capstone appear as indifferent as the stars above to the human remains that lie beneath.

When we first found Aslan’s Table, we remapped Archenfield and the house of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Next, the boy’s eyes scanned the slope for martial advantages in the time of the Norman invasion. One story quickly replaces another. Once we were done with the Normans and Celts, we traced the planets and constellations from Mars to Jupiter to Uranus and Cygnus. The boy saw his first shooting stars, The Geminids, earlier this month. He yelped, joyously and our life flashed sweetly past in my heart, leaving a tiny puff of regret.

Nothing living stays fixed in time. In this winter’s issue, we invite artists and thinkers to share flashes of  inspiration as the world spins on its axis, once more.

We’re tipping towards the end of a year when we’ve been plunged into multiple perspectives. Here in rural England and Wales, job losses from Covid abound. I take it for granted, these days, that I can’t see my mother, extended family and almost all my friends. Yet, on this darkling mesa, living humans are wildly outnumbered, in the dark, by the scurrying murders in hedgerows. Covid feels like a more distant problem – but that changes, every day. Tonight, I wear a top hat, my lover’s face is tattoed in gold; we’re an alien raving tribe, accountable to no one. Owls hoot, rabbits bound and the pheasant rends its cry. I sit on a gate, while our son – still, after all, a boy, squats and toys with his new torch, flaring its light.

Above us, Saturn and Jupiter, to the naked eye, appear to form a double star. To those accustomed to tracking the planets’ usual diagonal line, it’s momentarily disorienting. But a pair of binoculars quickly undoes the illusion. Saturn hovers oddly vertically above Jupiter, the distant planet engulfed in the reflection of the larger. It’s kinda cool, kinda boring. Tomorrow, Saturn will move a degree further and the next day further still. The two keep to their orbits; it’s only our view of them that changes, for a day or twenty. If history wasn’t shouting at us that the last time humans saw this was 1226 and that maybe this was the Christmas Star seen by the Magi, would we be impressed?

3 head torches by a Neolithic shrine on an empty hill.

The moment that an idea turns into meaning is curiously hard to pinpoint. Perception begins in ourselves, but we rarely question how perception is formed. Inspiration is often discussed in breathless tones. But inspiration, too, takes its fleeting place in a context of understanding. Without comprehension, it’s tricky to make art, or life, with any sense of unity, however open, that can absorb myriad changes. Artistic understanding often occurs in the periphery of the orbit of our thoughts. We probe this periphery with artists Tim Best, Ellen Rogers and Vex Ashley. Clare Archibald presents a visual exploration of the process of learning from ultrasound and non-human photography, while Jessica Thomson considers the fiery nature of feminine friendship. We close this year with a cosmic Goth-electro-disco set from our resident DJ Caoimhe Lavelle, with Latin drums, Grace Jones, Cambodian psych-rock and the spirit of Neu. I’ll be dancing to it around my outdoor fire with my invisible Neolithic fellow star worshippers.

Love on ya,




Soma Ghosh

Editor, The Demented Goddess






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