Where to start...
I was rather taken with wearing a top hat when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I'd seen Harpo Marx wearing a beaten up old one in 'Duck Soup' and 'A Night at the Opera' and found in him a rather dubious role model I guess.
I remember a dream I had around then, well, maybe more of an image than a sequence of events, but it was of a top hat with an enormous, lolling tongue coming out of the front and I feel that Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira was trying to make her presence felt long before her current incarnation.
That's her name by the way. She loves it when people try and say it.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...
Anyway, this phase of wearing a top hat didn't last particularly long, I can't even remember what happened to the black one in the picture (which was a present by the chap behind me, my brother from another mother Tom Wolfe).
It wouldn't be until about a decade later that I would don a top hat again and little did I know what the consequences surrounding that, ah, investment would be.
So I purchased a red top hat when I was at Green Man Festival 2013 with no more premise or forethought than I missed wearing one. That very night myself and my festival crew roamed into Chai Wallah's in various states of inebriation. As we made our way to the front of the throng, some reveller behind me knocked the hat flying off my head and into the crowd.
Now, this was to be a fine lesson in letting go. Without even turning around to acknowledge who had done it, I simply carried on walking with the rest of my friends to the front of the dance floor, unbenownst to me that one friend had scurried off to find the hat and another turned on the guy who'd knocked my hat off to scold him. A minute later and the hat had returned to me and I was in receipt of a very sincere apology.
I think this photo is the first one of her, sporting a flower that she no longer wears and a joker card that has been lost. She will come to lose many more artefacts and paraphanelia before reaching her fullest power.
Incidentally I have no idea who the guy in the Tutankhamun headress is, but the shirt places me at Festival No. 6.
And no, I can't remember what skirt I was wearing that night but I do miss that shirt.
Another time, another flower...
That one didn't stick around either.
I've actually no idea where my sense of style and desire for colour came from, it just started creeping in from working festivals so much I guess.
This photo had been taken as friends and family gathered for Tom and Willow's hand fasting in 2015. They got 'officially' married earlier in the day and had people celebrate it properly by having them camp in a field and observe their union in a way more befitting soul union and not registering product.
As the guests filled outside the sacred circle the clouds overhead threatened rain. However, the priestess led the throng with a unanimous 'Om' and I swear I've never seen the sun punch through clouds so quickly before. This was happening right now.
It wouldn't be the last time I'd bear witness to union and ceremony this powerful, nor the effect that a crowd, or person for that matter, can have on the weather.
I was getting a little bored of losing decorations for this hat though and sooner or later needed to commit something a little more permanent to her...
Now, I'm sure as hell not going to start documenting every decoration and ceremony I've held with my beloved top hat, but starting simply before this thing snowballs into her current manifestation is within the realms of possible.
The first permanent fixture I made was the blue flower on the left there, bequeathed by the performance poet Hib Word (check her out she's mind bogglingly good) after Festival No. 6 No. 2. That is, the second FN6 I attended, not Festival No. 12.
(Incidentally this photo was taken whilst I was performing on stage at her event House of Verse in Leicester, a premier variety night of comedians, poets, bands and DJs, go check that out too!)
I, in a rare display of fabric attention, stitched the flower onto the hat. It contrasted well with the red of the top hat and began attending raves in Bristol with me, acquiring the monkey head torch (broken), and psychadelic mushroom and butterfly.
Jungle and Psy-Trance, for once, were getting on with each other.
The little babooshka underneath the defunct monkey was a gift from my friend Annabie whom had roamed Japan with me for a spell a couple of years previously. She had gone on her own to walk to Nara along some pilgrimage or another and had got lost. She got taken in for the night by some kind stranger who's daughter made and sold the little bug-eyed pixies.
This next picture was taken at Eden near Dumfries in Scotland. I'd been invited along by my friend Sofia who had a pitch called Brown and Orange in the main arena. The whole point was fancy dress, mock photo shoots, glittery things and jamming.
Already the hat was taking a personality of her own. A key addition was a braided headband slotted over the top of her which allowed other items to be slotted in. I'd bound a blue dream catcher to the side of her (another present from Tom), screwed a yellow ball to the top (courtesy of Annabie) and slotted the yellow rimmed sunglasses into place, bestowing her with the eerie feeling that she was watching you...
Eden would also turn out to be where she would receive her first propeller, neatly inserted into the back inside a spiral fixture.
It would be after Eden that things really started kicking off with her. I've always been a bit nostalgic, somewhat locked in whimsical memory and simultaneously resenting the aspect of me that lives in the past. So over the next couple of months I started fixing all sorts of memorial detritus that I'd kept over the years.
You'll notice the propeller she now sports.
I had little idea at the time just what I was creating. We imbue things with intention and spirit on an unconscious level and when we place these things in arrangement they begin to grow bigger than the sum of their parts. I was taking massive risks in myself, even in Bristol, not just stepping into the limelight but wearing it. Memories, gifts, stuff that I found on the floor in the street and at festivals, Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira was becoming a magnet for the curious and a repellent of the fearful.
This photo was taken when I first had a crack at busking in the streets of Bristol. No sooner had I stepped out onto Baldwin Street I was stopped by a photographer who was cataloguing the weird and wonderful people there. He kindly asked if he could take a photo. How could I refuse?
That day's busking went terribly. I had yet to refine a style that would befit poetry. I had taken an amp out with me and tried at the harbour side to announce my word. Six poems later, with no applause between, I smiled to myself and moved on. This was not the Way.
Things were now getting a bit ridiculous. She was now adorned with a conch shell, several crystals and her first light device in the form of the three pronged claw sticking up from behind the dream catcher. That last item would prove to start impacting heavily on the way I moved with her, having to now pay a little more attention to low doorways and ceilings.
This photo was taken at the last festival of my season in 2016 at Watchet. This was the first festival I'd been hired specifically as a walkabout act at a flat rate, setting precedent for myself and for, in time I hope, other poets.
Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira was slowly beggining to wake up. Between the elements of wind and sunshine, words and dance, life was incubating in what began as a simple top hat. She was starting to hold a presence all by herself that friends started to pick up on. There was a dialogue going on between us that moved beyond the spoken, that bent the laws of communication.
So things shift and change quite frequently on her. Where the monkey face once was is now a Hello Kitty lantern, the stitched blue flower is swamped in pink bloom, but more often than not additions stick.
That's not to say there is not evolution here. Sometimes she doesn't like something I've found or otherwise procured and throws the pram out of the toy. Sometimes she's trying to draw my attention to something in myself I'm ignoring, or maybe there's something that doesn't quite fit. Either way she's a creative force to be reckoned with and I wonder sometimes if I'm the creator or being created.
There's something to be said for encountering other hats though, particularly new borns at festivals. Being able to gift something to a fresh hat is a joy to me and sends her spirit further afield.
It was around this time I began to feel her presence in earnest. On top of exposing her to sun and wind, I'd been imbuing her with Ki as well, being aware to the subtle energies of reality. I'm mindful when adding something to her of the Shadow framework I learned doing a six month journey in Bristol and consciously created the archetypes within her, the Lover, the Magician, The Sovereign and the Warrior. Being versed and honed in the skills of noticing Projection and Denial, I have become super aware of how much of a trigger I can be simply walking down the street in full regalia, inspiring fear in some and wonder in others.
Glastonbury 2017 held some important lessons and knowledge for the both of us. I'd attended a wand making workshop and was hastily trying to finish it before going to a poetry slam. I pricked my thumb on something and rather than suck it to stem the bleeding, I wiped the blood into the grooves of the stick I was working with, my first encounter with blood magic. It was an act of deliberation mounting it in the seat of the Magician. She then taught me a lesson I would never forget...
I had bumped into the crew I'd been working with and we wandered around the site looking for other members. I'd been drinking a little bit and dishonouring the life I'd been pouring into Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira. Walking at pace through some field or another over uneven ground, she became impatient with me and leapt from my head, hitting the ground hard. I felt like I'd dropped a baby. She radiated a feeling that spoke, 'You are being irresponsible with your gift and vain to the point of emptiness. You do not deserve to wear me.'
As hard as she had hit the ground I was more surprised with how intact she remained, only a couple of things having fallen off. I gathered what had broken, reset her atop my head and carried on with my friends, not heeding the warning she had given me. About fifty paces later she did it again, whereupon I decided to take her back to camp and apologise properly in the morning. A strange feeling indeed to have a grudge borne against me from a creation of my own making...
Glastonbury festival, occurring during and indeed for the Summer Solstice, came with a new lease of life for Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira. Observing such a magical time, garnering important artefacts and lessons with her and rediscovering some dusty elements of myself had proved to be an intense period of time for both of us.
It wasn't until the festival had ended, however, that I began recognising truly the life i was creating in colour and trinket. Whilst tatting on the first eve of takedown I happened upon three seminal pieces of gear for her;
A long set of fairy lights.
A portable light bulb.
Her very own top hat.
She now looked battle ready, a Warrior in her own right and not just a helmet. People sensitive to the subtle recognise in her her own Light and Dark, the Trickster embodied, a portable altar and mobile festival all by herself.
She can light up the darkest of spaces, play music, provide advice from higher places and burn through insecurities in the fearful. Or is that me?..
It must be strange for you, reading this journey of imbuing life and spirit into such a thing. Breathing creativity. Living in service not only to a hat, but to the Mirror that is you, the only reason I exist. For you create me and this is solely why Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira exists. She has been created by the proxy of your existence. Having said that, Shiva demands balance in the dance of the Universe and one day a ceremony will be made...
There exists a tradition I learned of on my travels of the Bundle. Where there is something in your life you would see exit and other things you would see invited in, you must go to the woods and forests and gather sticks that have not touched the ground that speak to that which you would change in your life. You should bind and decorate this Bundle lavishly, pouring your intention into it through your hands, making mind incarnate.
Keep this Bundle in your home somewhere you will be mindful of it. The purpose if this is to charge it up, to remind yourself daily of your mission to yourself or indeed what you might bring to the world and others. When the time is right, the idea would be to make ceremony with it. Go back out onto the land, prepare a fire and set the Bundle on it, releasing the energy you have charged up. I can't tell you when the time would be right, but only to be mindful of it getting dusty as the energy and spark may dull and wane.
This is Vioindiblaegroekhlocithira's purpose. It is what I have created her for. To sacrifice. Like a fourth dimensional spiritual elastic band, she holds intent that for me stretches back into childhood. When the time is right I will make ceremony with her. This creates such a grief in me, feelings of fear around letting go, feelings of joy of what can be made from the ashes, feelings of anger at being misunderstood. You may very well be aghast at how I can regard life in such a way, but this is the nature of the word 'sacred', relative to 'sacrifice' meaning 'to make sacred'.
People on occasion have offered to buy her. I hope over the duration of this discourse I have made apparent I could no more sell them a limb. I could make hats to sell and they would carry my spirit. What purpose would that serve the owner? Ultimately, she is the one making this statement to you, dear reader: