Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twelve River Hoodoo

Twelve Great Rivers flow into the city of Devukarsha upon Riskail.  At least two of the river-networks are claimed to connect back to the Mississippi river-gate network, but that has yet to be confirmed.  The Mississippi is as sacred to the Lutrin as the Ganges is to the Hindu.  It is the river whose waters flow through their veins.  It is their greatest ancestor and they conjure by its fifty-two names even as they cuss, swear and make jokes about it as though it were a living presence in their lives.  To them it is.  Very much so.

Rivers are powerful forces and mighty sources of life-giving water.  They reshape the lands that they flow through, give fertile soil, take away eroded soil.  Rivers flow, their currents carry all sorts of good things and bad things to those who wait.  Sometimes its a school of tasty pudgefish, another time it's a black plaguebarge from some far distant deathworld.  You takes your chances and you places your bets.  The River always wins.

Down along the breakwaters and the less-busy piers and docking-areas, there are hundreds of makeshift shanties and shacks jumbled up together reminiscent of the hyper-cities that arose on Old Earth during the Toxic Age.  Only these river-bank favelas and squatter-camps are filled with urfolk, not humans, or at least usually there aren't a lot of humans found in those areas, except maybe students, liberal scholars and the occasional Renunciate, Archaic or Conscientious Decliner.  Most are only there for the day, and leave promptly at sundown.  The winding alleys and deadends that sprawl back from the river-gates to the Backwater Districts are incredible mazes that few not born into them can find their way through.  But for a few choice shiny-bits there are harijans, scugnizzi, lutrin-brats and a host of others who'll gladly act as your guide.  Just be careful not to pick up your guide in one of the unlicensed milk-bars down along the bleeding edge of the warehouse district.

If you're lucky, your guide might take you to a floating speakeasy or one of the blues bars that don't bother advertising.  For centuries now the fans have been waiting for the return of the greats, but so far those recovered from the Deep Past by the Helical Cathedraes have been of much too recent vintage to be any sort of legitimate reborn blues musician, but that doesn't prevent frauds, charlatans and pretenders and imitators from taking their chances and seizing upon the moment.  And there is no shortage of wandering minstrels, hopeful new artists, and traveling bands coming in from off of the great rivers.  But down along the shanties and shacks piled across the edges of the river-gate harbor-basins, if it aint blues, no one is interested.  They like jazz down along the Misericorde Canal, or so some claim.  And the porcinids love their grunt-along polka, but who wants to get gutted for grunting out of sequence?

It's along the basin streets and harbor avenues, the breakwater boulevards and the catchment parks that you'll hear the best blues anyone knows how to play.  The place is said to possess a special kind of magick all it's own.  The kind that you can't get around the Tier-Towners or the Towerclades.

Screaming Jay Hawkins might just put a spell on you:

Or maybe you prefer Nina Simone:

Or perhaps you prefer Creedance Clearwater Revival instead:

A brief digression:
You can also find alternative cover-versions of Screaming Jay's song "I Put a Spell On You" by Thin Lizzy, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Makers, Diamanda Galas, David Gilmour, Alan Price, Nick CaveMarilyn Manson, and Joe Cocker.  There's loads more out there if you care to go digging.  It's a great song and a real Blues classic that just about everyone covers eventually.  It's a very appropriate song for the harbor-basin dives, gin joints and BBQ-shacks.  In fact Screaming Jay Hawkins would have loved this place.  It was practically made for him.

Joe Cocker and John Cafferty both actually do a pretty respectable job of covering Screaming Jay Hawkins, and Nina Simone has a timeless voice that can breathe life into any song, but for me, despite the carnival-like antics that can turn some people off, Screaming Jay Hawkins just can't be beat.  Forget the stage act, the cigarette-smoking skull-topped walking stick, the crazy suits and capes, the flash paper and glued-on boar's tusks and just listen.  Just listen to the guy sing.  That guy had a Voice, and a wicked right hook; he used to be a boxer for a while, after he couldn't break into the Opera biz.  Yep.  Screaming Jay Hawkins wanted to sing opera.  If that's not a majorly missed-opportunity, what is?  Instead of singing The Marriage of Figaro at the Met in a tux, Screaming Jay went on to record I Want to Know and the Constipation Blues.  Screaming Jay Hawkins was one hell of a lot more than just some novelty-song clown -- he was amazing and fearless and a ground-breaking artist whose legacy will only grow over time as people finally catch up to his talent.  Maybe Screaming Jay Hawkins was one of those pivotal figures of history whose fate was/is inextricably bound-up with the way our timeline played out.  Maybe if he had sung at the Opera, Martin Luther King would've become president and Nixon got shot by some Nazi douchebag.  Who knows.  With all due respects to Screaming Jay Hawkins (who happens to be one of the patrons in remembrance of whom the Lutrin drink gatorwine and light congealed fish-oil candles for each Autumn), I'm not interested in conspiracy theories right now.  I'm interested in exploring Riskail.

So let's get on back to Riskail.

Any place that is built around the confluence of Twelve Rivers has got to have some serious river-based magick going on.  And yeah, I prefer the spelling with the 'K'.  Deal with it.

There's Hoodoo goin' on down there along the Harbor-Basins that collect the waters rushing through the Twelve pylon-flanked river-gates and it can be found in one way or another all along the River Senube out to the Estuarial Regions and the Tributary Gates scattered across the lagoons and channels as well as back up-river and along the banks of the great rivers and their interconnected river networks, some of which are claimed to flow all the way from Old Earth itself.  You can find rootworkers and folk-herbalists all through the parklands, marsh-precincts, lateral channels and municipal gardens.  Trickers are almost as numerous as pick-pockets and con-artists along the Low Esplanades and Treaters can be found wherever liquor is served no matter what the hour, especially if you look in one of the roadhouses down along the gate plazas where the caravans and dronetrucks can be found.

Hoodoo is a type of folk magic.  A living, breathing and vital collection of syncretized magical practices that has had enormous influence upon the Blues. Hoodoo is not a religion in itself, it's more something that one does, not what one thinks or believes.  It's a body of folk remedies and occult techniques that go way, way back and has since come far out amongst the worlds beyond Old Earth.  Like the gypsy-boats, the raft-peddlers and voyageurs, Hoodoo has followed the great rivers to the myriad cities that have grown up along their banks.  And what better city could a rootworker or conjure-artist ask for than Devukarsha with its Twelve River-Gates?

Trey did a wonderful job of introducing mail-order HooDoo suppliers in his post here.  (The post and his blog itself are both definitely worth a look!)  For a really in-depth look at Hoodoo you need to look no farther than LuckyMojo.  You could lose hours digging through all the incredible stuff that those folks freely provide on their site, including a wonderful online Blues Lyrics Archive.  And if you get seriously intrigued or moved to investigate farther, Lucky Mojo offers a correspondence course and you can get a copy of Harry Middleton Hyatt's interviews and collected folklore (and authentic conjure practices) directly from Lucky Mojo as well.  Hyatt's work is one of the few very real root-sources (no pun intended) we have for authentic Hoodoo practice and it's the stuff everyone else repackages, regurgitates, revises and bases their attempts at writing a paperback popularization upon.  Especially breathless newager-types trying to sound all earthy and who've never done a lick of real work in their pampered lives.  Hoodoo is a bluecollar type of magick rooted in the experience of the proletariat, the folklore of those downtrodden masses that used to get trampled over by Wall Street pirates and predatory lenders too big to be called criminals.  Only they aint downtrodden no more.

When nanotechnology began to really exert itself as a cultural force, and people were confronted with millions of radical new decisions to make, choices to ponder, and options to sort through, it wasn't the so-called best and brightest who ran with the metaphorical ball.  People trained to be doctors and lawyers and such were canal-ized into certain ways of thinking that led to the formation of the comformist-hivemind still referred to as the mainstream.  They made up the densely-packed and hyper-networked mass of humanity caught-up in the wake of the Singularity.  They became the isoclades, the xenophage-patrolled gated communities, Affinity-Affiliate Groups, the Tower-dwelling Arcology Communities and other, similar and parallel social networks more interested in the Games, the Dialogues, and the Spectacle than what was happening outside their comfortable nanoplexes and hyper-conurbations.  Clannish and Ideologically Oriented, these groups pursued their own agendas, often in isolation from all others for fear of cultural, ideological or other forms of pollution, dilution or dissolution.  They put up barriers to remain intact.  Separate.  Distinct.  Balkanized.  They abandoned their fellows and immersed themselves in their own preferred blend of virtuality, holography and psychimedia.  Why would any intelligent and good-looking person of any standing jeopardize their health, wealth or status to go grubbing about in the dirt like a savage, unless it was for some reality contest, of course.  If you can be totally fulfilled and satisfied within the Mainstream, that's where you'll stay.

Those groups rarely make an impact on the manifest world anymore.  They are in love with their pretty, pretty prisons and wouldn't dream of leaving -- oh, they do dream of it, but they would never actually do it.  The term actual has become deprecated and it is considered vulgar in the extreme to use it amongst the predominently virt population.  Besides, virtual reality is even more real than physical existence...

Only a fraction of the softborn and virtual populations have any sort of connection back to incarnate or manifest existence, and the majority of them are Gamers and affiliated Gamephorms, mostly cached on/through Jontolon and they only interact via the Oracles.

Less than one thousandth of a thousandth of the overall population of the softborn ever seek out incarnation into physicality, despite it being reserved unto them as one of their inalienable rights.  The flesh has no real allure, appeal or attraction to the hyper-stimulated minds of those descended from AI or human-AI mergers.

The Singularity and its flashy-trashy distractions and ever-expanding explosion of re-mixed hyper-trivia churning out from the exponentially expanding social networks is indeed mind-boggling, incomprehensible and ultimately pointless.  At least from the viewpoint of an Archaic-sympathizer.

It's the people of the Plurality who still make history, commit art and develop new stories and fresh myths as they explore the Worlds Without End that the Deep Infrastructure has opened up before them.  People who learned to be creative with whatever they had at-hand, who employed schemes of correspondences and weren't afraid of poetry, or of seeking the assistance of invisible forces to redress imbalances and injustices were exactly the sorts of people who siezed upon nanotechnology and ran with it and are still running off beyond the horizons of the farthest worlds and heading for the most notorious cities of the Known Worlds, like Devukarsha.

Like any crisis before it, The Singularity came and went and Life adjusted, Life went on, and out along the rivers that flow from world to world to world on and ever onwards you can still hear the Blues.  Watch where you step so you don't walk into some goofer dust.  For a price the nantu-bat can lead you to someone who can lay a trick for you, or take one off of you -- if you can meet their price.  If you know where to look you can pick-up a mojo-bag while sampling some of the best gumbo or the hottest prawn-chili you ever had.  The Lutrin have learned how to brew beer and serve it up ice cold or puke-warm depending on your preferance and even a Boonjwalla blind in three eyes and piss-drunk on maggot-juice knows the difference from an ale, a lager and a stout.

Life is good on the rivers.  Even for a beer snob.


  1. The Feast of the Mau Mau has begun!


  2. I think this post encapsulates what's cool about Riskail: everything's a potential ingredient in the stew, but the finished product has a flavor all its on. Any setting that can reference Delta Blues, magical folkways, the Singularity, and nanotechnology has my interest.

  3. @Rob: Thanks for the link--there's some really cool stuff there that we're going to be digging into shortly!

    @Trey: Thanks for the kind words--we hope to bring a lot more Blues and Folklore into the mix fairly soon, especially once we finally get the Pararail, Coast-Roads and Road-house post sup and out there. A couple of posts/articles/essays about the Singularity/Plurality are on teh schedule for this coming week...they've been held-back until after the big change-up. Glad we have your interest. What's coming up next ought to appeal to you somewhat. We're planning on talking about the Oral Tradition, and more river-based folklore. The good ship Mojo Rising will be making a call on the river basin harbors...


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