Launch presentation from the Mumufication website
ROLL UP ROLL UP — YOU ARE ALREADY DEAD
The following text was written by and then performed by Claire and Ru Callender at The Florrie in Liverpool on the 25th of August 2017.
25th of August 2017 being the date that the idea of MuMufication and The People’s Pyramid was introduced to the world at large and Toxteth in particular.
PART ONE: YOU ARE ALREADY DEAD
Don’t ever be afraid, of anything, ever, because you are already dead.
This moment, now, this is the moment between the click and the bang.
You are already dead.
The truth is the glass of life it is not half full, or half empty; it’s smashed on the floor, and every drop of experience that passes your lips is sucked from the teeth of non existence.
We are all absent friends in waiting, ancestors already, peering out through the fabric of our burial shroud, the soil of our graves filling our mouths, the flames from our funeral pyres scorching the inside of our greasy, cracked skulls.
Your solid certainties line the inside of your coffin. Your grand plans for tomorrow, just stains and scratches on the lid. Your voice, your touch, your name, just memories and stories, soon to be forgotten forever.
We are motes of dust in a sunbeam, fragments of experience, echoes of atoms dispersing into endless night, radio signals becoming fainter and fainter and fainter.
Our homes are tombs, our towns and cities; boneyards. We are lonely piles of calcium carbonate becoming dust.
We are already dead.
We are undertakers. That’s how we know we’re all already dead.
We buried you, shortly before we buried each other. Every day, we take the dead, the grateful, the reluctant, the snatched, the driven, the too soon and the not soon enough, and we dress them, and lift them into their coffins, bring their families in to sit with them and cry and kiss them one last time.
We pace out their graves, we book the crem, we dig the hole, we lift and carry them to the edge of the known world. We stand around them and tell the story of their life.
We bury or we burn them, we shove them out and off across that dark river, where the mist closes behind us all.
We’re not Death, but we’re on the payroll, and it’s okay for that to make you feel a little uncomfortable; it sits oddly with us too. We didn’t expect to become this.
And in becoming this we get no staff discount, no immunity from fear or loss.
We have no special offers today, no get out of death free cards.
And we don’t approve of death either, we don’t pretend to love it like teen goths, or ISIS, we are not Death Positive, but daily, death grips our faces in his bony vice, and turns us toward this truth:
Love is the law, there is only now, WE ARE OUR OWN ANCESTORS.
When you talk about ancestors, people automatically think you are talking about genetics, and yes, your fore-bearers are important. You live because they lived, and some times they should be acknowledged and thanked, because knowing where you came from, helps you to be clearer about where you are going, gives you some perspective
And sometimes, actually always, their actions need to be atoned for too, because our ancestors gift us their blood guilt as well as their hard won wisdom.
The past was not a rosy idyll. It was not better. People have always done bad things.
Reconnecting with your ancestors is not about believing in an afterlife, it’s about looking at the map, understanding the debts and obligations that comes with our brief tenancy of this boneflesh vessel.
Look closer still, and you will see that your ancestors are so much more than blood, they are the people who influence you culturally and socially. They are your friends, your heroes, your elders. They are artists, writers and musicians, fictional characters, your nightmares, your past actions. These are your real ancestors, your allies.
We are all already ancestors, blessed with the wisdom of hindsight, free to make the same mistakes, free to influence the future from the past, yours, and others.
Are we bringing you down?
We’re trying to raise you up, we’re arming you, waking you up, re-membering you.
We’re talking directly to your DNA, to your great great grandmother, your reptile brain, your loins, your limbs, because today, we place the trumpets of Jericho one last time on the altar and we blast down the walls.
But you have to catch up, you have to meet the ancestral you, because the futures coming up past, and it’s going to be gone before we know it.
And you have a vital part to play in it, to remember that you are gone already, and the gone are still here.
YOU ARE GONE ALREADY AND THE GONE ARE STILL HERE.
This real plastic skull sits on our family altar.
He is a vessel for Papa Gede, a Voodoo spirit deity who comes from Africa, via Haiti, LA, Miami, Louisiana, Cardiff, and Liverpool, smuggled in the frightened angry hearts of 45,000 slaves in ships that sailed from here, came ashore with the sugar cane, now he hides in your cavities.
Papa Gede is the corpse of the first man to die, the guardian of the graveyard, a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take your soul into the afterlife.
Like many memes of belief, He picks up and integrates elements from the different cultures and realms he passes through, Catholicism, slavery, jazz, hiphop, film, even cartoons. He moves through them all, snapping flowers from your front garden for his button hole.
Tradition says he is short, with a top hat, carries an apple in his hand, and wears spectacles with one lens missing, so as to see into both worlds, but since coming to our family, he’s developed a taste for old skool acid house, so he wears a smiley monocle instead.
In our home, he sits on an altar, surrounded by photographs of our dead and our living, and he guards a complicated mosaic, an interlocking matrix of people and figures we love and admire, real, not real, our past, archetypes, images and mementoes, and we light candles for him, we give him strong rum and cheap cigars, we talk dirty to him and clearly likes it because he grins.
We know it’s plastic, a metaphor, but he is also an African Spirit, and for us, who’s working life is spent holding real skulls under real skin, he is a way to consciously pause, give thanks for the breath we still breathe, feel the fear that goes with our work, that constant uprush of air from the edge of existence, the backdraft made by life after life falling into the void.
It is a way for me to connect with my dead father, my dead mother, it’s a way of trying to keep sincere and clean and grounded, a way to ritually approach each body and the ground we lay that body in.
He is a portal, a black mirror, an offering, a hope and an appeasement.
Sometimes I see myself dead through his sockets, and sometimes I see myself alive, forever, outside time and space.
(Walk down and pour Papa Gede a drink and light his cigar. He slowly revolves on display turntable)
You will meet Papa Gede one day, cloaked in whatever belief system you filter the world through.
Minimalist or grandiose, car crash or cancer, mid sentence or last line written, death will not be avoided. This metaphor will become more than meta.
So, we are going to welcome Papa Gede to the party tonight, introduce you all, so when your time comes you can remember his face, have a moment of remembrance, because it’s a little awkward when you confuse your own personal psychopomp with someone you went to school with.
Death will not be making a friend request.
Remember, this is all imaginary, it’s all just play. Magick is a conjured moment.
Ritual is the raising and focusing of energy that moves us towards a goal, even if we’re just pissing around down the occult skatepark.
Our goal is to light the candle that draws the spirit moth closer, until we merge with our future past selves.
By accepting Papa Gede as real as you or me, and offering him rum and smoke then we spread our awareness outward towards other possibilities, other models of thought, the idea that we don’t own the patent on consciousness, that life moves through more things than we can possibly imagine.
Anyway, today we want to suspend disbelief and welcome them all in, give them space and form, all of our ghosts and ancestors, our mistakes and abandoned dreams, our possible pasts, our far from certain futures.
We do this with the authority of death, your death and my death, the death of habit, belief, certainty and dogma.
We ask Papa Gede to bring them to the front of the queue, to lift aside the velvet rope and usher in…….your great great great grandparents, the first bit of music that made you wet, your favourite character from the first book you loved, your first orgasm, your loves, your biggest betrayal, the first thing you really believed in.
Bring down your own dead, someone whose absence in your life still hurts, who played a part in shaping your worldview. Use this hole we are trying to open to thank the unthanked.
We turn it up so the veil ripples and dissolves.
And they stand beside us, handcuffed with DNA, they radiate before us, the not born, future ghosts that might not come, and we hold hands with our ancestors, flesh tightly grips bone, tightly grips flesh.
And they look at us as we look at them, these ghosts of lives gone past, these bursts of light, these flashes of existence, they bless each one of us here, they bless this messy, fucked up joy of living and dying.
They bless our deaths, already long past, they hear our singing in the halls of the dead, they smile at the illusion that we are separate.
And so here we stand, something bigger than before, intermingled fragments of people we love, people we admire, the people we really are, and the trickster gods we invite to exist, a mosaic of consciousness and love, sadness and fear, creation and destruction.
Death stared down. Life faced off.
We hold each other’s gaze as long as we can, seeing ourselves in the past already.
I burn into your retina, you scorch into my heart.
We pass through each other like atomic ghosts.
We dance ourselves right out the womb, we dance ourselves into the tomb.
Again and again we let go of all solid identity, again and again we cling to each other, melt together, separate, spiral up into the light, plunge down into the dark, repeat, repeat, repeat.
We share the same flesh, the same fears, the same desires, we bear the same shame, we wear the same clothes, hoodies of light, shrouds of darkness.
Today, in the pool of life, we stand up to our necks in death.
We’re all in it and we close our eyes and we are, all, already dead.
PART TWO: ROLL UP, ROLL UP.
A brief recap for those not listening..
We die. Every last one of us.
IT’S A FUCKING OUTRAGE!
But there’s nothing we can do about that right now. The alternative is worse. Endless life.
And so what happens next is the shock, the numbness, the phone call to people like us. Decisions, regrets, disbelief.
Those decisions are currently restricted to burial or cremation, though bolder future cultures may have more creative thoughts, as neither process is actually required by law.
Imaginative use of epoxy resin seems criminally underused.
But right now, 74 % of us choose to be cremated, and thanks to the sheer number of dead, it is nearly always done in dismal style, pushed through, with little chance for meaning or feeling, in styleless factories designed for the smooth, regular management of numbed punters, cloaked by a funeral director with a sheen of mock opulence, shiny cars, veneered plastic handled coffins, rituals we no longer believe.
We then with pathetic gratitude take what little we have, returned to us coyly described as ashes, but make no mistake, is your ground down bones, and we do what with them what we can.
We try to create a place, real or liminal, to return to, to re-member our dead, to commune with them in the only language we share with them: memory.
Hence the rose bush, the urn, the clifftop, the firework, the artificial diamond, the tattoo.
We all exit through the gift shop, too afraid to ask for the Bones themselves, to oil them reverentially, bring them out on high days to sit at the table once more, to dance and clack together.
So much to explain.
The creation of space for new rituals to form.
A ticket to a gig for the dead.
A coffin made by The Justified & Ancient.
An ice cream van pulling up to a crematorium, or even a waiting pyre.
The singing of a hymn, familiar and stirring.
The bricking up of a fragment of your bones to rise up as:
The People’s Pyramid
A funeral ceremony where death and architecture and theatre sit in a circle and spoon feed each other.
Where you become an ancestralised elder of this tribe, a tribe that was smelted together in the furnace of acid house, that made sacrificial fires of money to warm the soul, not feed desire, that goaded and poked the bloated mangy beast that entertainment had become.
A brick marked with the word Mu Mu, that you will hold in your own hands many, many times before your death, that will be in a place of prominence in your house, to delight, amuse and horrify your friends, provoking nightmares and arguments about the most important thing: the eternal darkness we all sweep towards.
A brick that your children will sneak up to, alone, in the dark, to hold silently, to feel the weight of your oncoming death.
And then when you die and are burnt, either with the full Rites of Mu: the coffin, the JAM’s in the van, rituals yet uncreated, or if your wider family object, and whose wouldn’t, then an everyday funeral director, independent not corporate of course, an everyday service, but a coffin built by the Justified and Ancients, and 2 and a half hours in a furnace at 800 degrees, after which, a portion of your cremated remains are poured into a hole into said brick, and on the Toxteth day of the dead, you and your fellow dead bricks are ritually cemented together by the JAM’s.
And so slowly rises of The Pyramid of People, peaking at 23 feet high, designed and built using sacred geometry, a utilitarian, uncompromising statement about mortality and loss.
Or you could sit in a plastic jar in an undertakers cupboard for a decade, or blow back into the faces of your relatives on a windswept cliff, or fertilise a rose bush, or lodge in the grooves of fell-walkers boots, mingling with the sheep turds and the heather tufts and the odd atom of Wainwright himself.
These are valid choices. They have worked for a hundred years or so and provide comfort to millions, and so far, have been the only options.
Not everyone wants to rise, ritually laid layer by layer, one day a year, cemented into a finite tower of brick dust and bone, a Babel of the dead.
Not everyone wants to point accusingly at the sky, goading God and lightning and local Tory landowners
But do you?
So here’s the deal.
As self taught, radical ceremonial undertakers for the past seventeen years, we have been chosen through a series of preordained events that we are powerless to resist, to accept the offer to join forces with The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and become:
Callender, Callender, Cauty and Drummond, Undertakers to the Underworld.
Creative ideas pertaining to the practical and ceremonial transformation of mortal remains considered
Bespoke Koffins 4 Life made and sold, and the Bricks of Mu that make The People’s Pyramid distributed.
We crave ritual. We look for meaning, or more importantly, we need to ask questions.
Traditions spring from this desire.
Traditions are created from scratch.
Traditions are one offs. Let’s make some new ones.
Together, we create the spine shudder of mystery.
Together, we, the quick and the dead will boldly raise The People’s Pyramid.
We will build New Jerusalem, brick by bony brick.
We will rise beyond flesh, above the rising seas, and the choking air.
This is no joke. Callender Callender Cauty and Drummond Undertakers to the Underworld are real.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The JAMs have entered the funeral business!