Mercy oh Mercy

Mercy oh mercy

Mercy oh mercy,

The heathen’s journey

is up to come down

by plane and on ground

upon sand and stone

to come to the home 

of a god.

          Still turmoil.

Sacred earth art thou that?!

Oh miserere,

take home brick by brick,

make sand, slurry, slip.

Rage and care in prayer

to a tool whose blood 

is thought, body – mud.

Carve a god,

          find divinity,

within and not without.

Created and performed by acharacter, Mercy oh Mercy, is a delve into an underworld, wherein we join an old fisherman and his clawed congregation for eucharist, which gently trips into psychedelic ceremony.

Built through lived research, this performance offers a conglomerate and comparative view of christian liturgy, psychedelics, tarot, and a journeying practice within a western magical tradition. This performance was commissioned by Embassy Gallery for a scratch at Two Queens, Leicester. Its development was then commissioned by Dance City and supported by Breeze Creatives.

 

THE STORY

This story begins in Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There, there is a tomb that hides a secret. To find it, go past the anointing table in the entrance, beyond Golgotha, and down a set of ragged steps, into a room that smells like deep earth; hewn rough.

There, in the corner, is the tomb: lit by one oil lamp on the adjoining wall. Crawl inside it – there’s a small square wooden door at the back. Open it, to reveal a dark expanse, with a light breeze that smells like wet rocks.

When you reach in and touch the inside wall something happens. It is as if you are invited to become part of the living rock, lifting feet like they are being seized by some sinuous web of limestone. With closed eyes, merge, and step into the dark.

There’s a light on, two, one above the other below. The moon is hanging from the roof of the cave and sitting on the surface of a lake beneath it.

At the edge of the lake there’s an old man sitting on the edge of a small moored fishing skiff.

He sings an old song and creatures begin to stir, dozens of stalked eyes pierce the surface of the water around him, they blink against the melody that curls down to lick them – a lure – they leer beadily at this familiar character.

One by one, he scoops them out from the lake and places them on the deck of the boat, the skeletal clatter of their feet on the wood growing to a  clamorous applause, and once all are aboard, he calls for order.

He raises his right leg, and brings the arch of his foot down upon the back of one of the crabs. Crack.

Take, eat, for this is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me. 

Now beside him, I am offered a piece. It has the metallic taste and chitinous crunch of uncooked mushrooms.

Next, he dips his hand over the edge of the boat into the lake to bring water over the crabs’ backs; their gills have to be kept wet for them to keep breathing.

Drink, all of you, for this is my blood that was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 

He dips again to pour water over his own head and mine.

Bringing the ceremony to a close he places the flat of an oar down into the boat and the crabs file up it, tottering as it narrows and falling back into the water. I follow suit, invigorated with a new found enthusiasm for exploration that has risen like a flash tide. I look to him for a parting exchange.

“Above, below, the drain always flows, and we are caught on one side of the plug.

Sink. Past fish, weed and wreck to the bed.”

A light on, a house, the front door is open, the crabs stop on the threshold this is not their shell. Step into the home preserved in deep still waters, its once warm allure now some cold husk of memory. Radiators rusted, walls green with algae. Turn to leave, and see him at the door. The old man offers a hand to a divinity at the surface – considered.

Below, above, the drain always flows, forget yourself to find home.

Conduct the cacophony of the crabs, their legs whack on the outside walls. They click and clack furiouser and furiouser until their beat is heaving the water like it is breath, and with one last effort, all is thrown from the house.

The walls collapse.

I spent the remainder of that day in Jerusalem backtracking along the Via Dolorosa with a dear friend. We talked about how dealing with ego loss within hallucinogenic experience was akin to grieving the death of a loved one. Both demanding a process of rebuilding, with a heightened understanding of the fragility of bricks that we forgot were made of sand.