Wight Power

“Come all ye powers from West and North, from East and South. Spirits of our forefathers, attend to us now.” – traditional Swedish chant, T. Johnson.

Over a year ago, before the unfortunate events culminating in the election of the current President of the United States of America and the attendant conflagration of United States and international politics, I was walking to work and had the unfortunate opportunity to chance upon a unique piece of graffiti written in the Elder Futhark which, transliterated, read “WHITE POWER”. While I have always acknowledged that even in my particularly liberal bubble there existed systemic forces of racism, to see this peculiar scribble in the heart of a quickly gentrifying, historically queer neighborhood, was deeply distressing to me and, in some way I suppose, became something of an omen of warning that the situation in which we live now is not normal – in fact, quite the opposite. Being someone that couldn’t pass up a good pun, I immediate wrote my own version of this: MORE WIGHT POWER, LESS WHITE POWER.

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In pre-Christian, Scandinavian and Nose polytheistic cosmologies, the world itself was very much alive with many numinous beings that were propitiated for aid as well as warded against should misfortune befall a person or their livelihoods. Among the most common of these in the Scandinavian world were the “wights”, from the Anglo-Saxon word wiht (wichht) “a being or creature”, itself derivative from the Old Norse vættir; which comprise a constellation of beings structured into various clans (ON. Ættir) based at least in part upon the locals in that they have domain as well as relative kinship to humanity. Historically these beings are often seen as related to the Roman concept of gens locii and share many ambiguous traits common in animistic belief systems around the world and, inclusive of representing natural forces and powers, also seem intimately connected with the dead.

So prevalent was the belief in these beings, elements of the preservation of propitiating and warding against them survived the Christianization of Scandinavia and can be found in many of the Black Arts (SV. Svartkonst) books and surviving oral histories of folk magicians well into the 19th Century and is being re-explored today by adherents of pre-Christian Norse polytheisms. It is my opinion and experience, that when we somehow cease to live in relationship with the land and fail to give due honor to the histories of the peoples who have lived here before, the potential and possibility for very real disharmony and retaliation from the people below may occur. And here is where one can start exploring new methods not only of re-enchanting the world, but also work against antagonistic forces that threaten our lives.

Johnson’s Graveyard Wanderers provides an example from an 19th Century black arts book into how one may begin to submit themselves to the powers of these wights as well as the powers of the dead (more on that later) in order to gain magical power:

“If one wants to know about the sciences of the Invisibles – their wisdom namely about the families of Wights and Lucifers, then one goes to a grave on a Thursday night between the hours of twelve and one o’clock.

One takes a little earth from the grave, cuts the left ring finger, so that three drops of blood fall down on the grave-earth and then throw the earth on you as the priest does when he casts the earth onto a coffin.
When one has done so, one has sold oneself into the power of the Invisibles and then you can learn from them anything one desires to learn in this way.”[1.]

This rite is curious for many reasons; in particular is its apparent omission of the typical “Christian” symbolism common in many of these texts as protections against the chthonic forces invoked. It can be reasoned that this is because wights and the other beings called upon are averse to Christianity as a colonizing force or perhaps it it’s due to the conflation between wights and related beings with the devils of monotheistic faiths. Regardless of the logic whoever wrote this particular powerful initiatory ritual had, it can be a powerful start toward building a relationship with the above-mentioned powers and also hinges on other practices which comprise traditional Scandinavian mysticism and spirit work vital to the exploration of human and wight relations.

Having gained access to the “science” or knowledge of these invisible beings, it then becomes not only possible but even necessary to engage in practices aimed at building a rapport with them. This historically would have been through rituals of appeasement where individuals would leave them offerings and honor the sacred places where these beings live. In pre-Christian polytheistic practices, this would have taken place during the blót or communal sacrificial ceremonies honoring the gods and related divine powers. In contemporary Norse reconstructionist polytheism, traditional holidays for this include Julblot which occurs around the Christmas season or Winter Solstice, Dísablót which occurs in early February, and Álfablót occurring around the month of October and roughly congruous with Hallows tide. For those who are more inclined toward a contemporary Neopagan or Wiccan calendar, these holy days would be cognate with Yule, Imbolc, and Samhain.

I feel it is also important to mention that working with these beings does not necessarily require any particular renunciation of one’s current religious beliefs or lack thereof. To this day carryovers of beliefs in the wights are very much preserved either tacitly in the folk practices of the cultures of Germanic peoples or implicitly. Examples of leaving out gruel and bread for the house spirits are still very much practiced in rural parts of Scandinavia and the British Isles today and few Anglo-American observant of Christmas would be stunned to see the preservation of devotion to “a right jolly old elf.” [2.] For those who engage in practices of traditional witchcraft, this can be done alone or as part of the sacred meal or housel, and for Wiccans can be observed during their ritual of cakes and ale. The imperative, rather, is building sustained relationships with these beings.

As much of my personal practice in Scandinavian folk magic is both folkloric as well as transmitted through immigrant individuals and families who settled in the new world, I feel it is important to emphasize that many of these practices and images are themselves representative of historical beliefs and legends in northern Europe overlaid upon the colonized topography of the New World. Just as many of the historiolae that lead into the rites are concerned with early settlements, gods, local chieftains, kings, churches and ministers, epidemics, wars and soldiers, landowners, officials, thieves and strongmen, et cetera. so are many indigenous myths and therefore it is also important, and I suggest vital, to those practicing on colonized land to gain both historical familiarity with the indigenous peoples on whose land they walk as well as make attempts, when possible, to engage actively in cultural events, ask questions respectfully, and be pliable as to what these people believe to be appropriate or inappropriate when it comes to offerings made.

How does this all come together, then? The answer is partially pragmatic in that performing rites to the wights of an area, you gain their trust and they might be more amenable to helping you in various projects. Another consideration is that in exploring the land upon which you stand, you also gain knowledge of the peoples who came before you and all their varied experiences which have made their impressions on the land. This is nowhere more apparent in Scandinavian lore than in the saga of Egill Skallagrímsson an Icelandic farmer, viking and skald and in whose saga we gain knowledge of a peculiar rite aimed at pitting the wights against an enemy for the purposes of driving them away:

“And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse’s head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: ‘Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse’s head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.’

This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse’s head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.”[3.]

The nithing pole (ON níðstang) famously described in this text has recently been used by many contemporary heathen groups in digital battles against individuals who would seek to pollute the belief in the old gods of the north and spread hatred. While this digital practice of raising a nithing pole against these hateful individuals is admirable and definitely not without merit from some threads of magical logic, it is likely not as efficacious as the historical practice of raising a horse’s head to agitate the spirits against one’s enemies – though it is decidedly less expensive.

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This shouldn’t dissuade one who may wish to experiment with this practice as there are many examples such as those given in Skuggi’s Sorcerer‘s Screed that give related practices of nithing against an enemy using verbal, visual and animal aids incorporating the head of various fish to bring their demise. Combined with the correct enchantments, as exemplified in a wonderful video of Eivør Pálsdóttir I recently came across in her performance of Trøllabundin on the shores of the Faroe Islands, one may be able to both enchant the wights to your aid as well as create a striking and perfectly legal presence in public counter-demonstration.

For those who chose to be more innocuous, in Scandinavian folklore there are a number of legends of Wise Ones (typically, though not always characterized as Finns or Sami) who used their powers and presumed alliances with the good people in combat as well as to forward the sovereignty of the land:

“Magic shot, often called Finn shot, was the name given to projectiles supposedly causing sickness or sudden death. They were imagined to be sent in the form of bullets, insects, clouds or vapor, and so on. Many legends are concerned with the means by which one could protect oneself against this type of magic.” [4.]

The spell here described represents one of the more common ailments described as älvblåst, or simply alver (EN: ‘elves’), frequently translated from the cognate Irish belief of elf-shot. Far from the noble, sylvan beings described by Tolkien and high fantasy, Swedish and Scandinavian beliefs about the elves are rather ones of a brutal and powerful race to be respected and avoided when possible. Yet, as evidenced in the above text, the Wise may also gain cunning of their arts and use them against their opponents. One example being a witch I’ve met who used the power given him by the local spirits to cause illness in an enemy by pushing three hawthorn spines in their footprint during the month of May. It was later revealed that their enemy had later suffered hospitalization due to hepatic failure.

Apart from being petitioned or agitated for offensive measures, it should go without saying that forming relationship with the wights is also protective as evidenced in the extensive attestations of beings such as the domestic tomte or tomtenisse, a David the Gnome type spirit that is believed to inhabit domestic property and either aid in success and plenty or cause a ruckus when offended. Individual in their own rights, these beings are also related to the continuation of ancestor cults in pre-Christian Scandinavia and deserve special treatment themselves in a later essay.

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In closing, because the invisible folk were thought to live side by side with human beings, the work rhythms and daily needs of both groups overlapped in many ways. Polite actions such as vocally warning spirits in a forest that one is about to urinate are considered necessary. People looked to their numinous neighbors for advice, special tools, and perhaps for help in emergency situations and in return there are stories of invisible folk requesting aid from humans when, for example, a child was to be born and what happens when the confidentiality is disrespected – the most famous being the British story of the midwife and the fairy ointment which is a favorite story among some contemporary practitioners of the fairy faith in America even today.

[1.] Johnson. Graveyard Wanderers
[2.] Moore. A Visit from St. Nicholas
[3.] Green. Egil’s Saga. 1893
[4.] Lauri Honko, Krankheitsprojektile (1959); Nils Lid, Trolldom (1950), 1-36.

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From Blood Forge Iron

Amidst the rumors of war, remember this: The iron in your blood and the iron in the core of the earth were forged together in the first generation of stars. The currents in the molten iron beneath our feet and its motion with the turning of the earth create the earth’s magnetic field which shapes our heart’s magnetic field and helps to set its rhythm. We are connected with powers far older and stronger than those of the empire or its false god. And the guidance that they offer is as close as the beating of your heart.

Sean Donahue, Faery Priest and Witch

Yesterday several hundred torch-bearing people marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia’s grounds, shouting, ‘You will not replace us,’ and ‘Jew will not replace us,’ and chanting rhetoric of ‘blood and soil’ in an eerie parallel to the rhetoric of ‘Blut und Ehre‘  which became one of the rallying positions of the National Socialist Party in Germany nearly a century past. This latter part, I think, is relevant as a witch and gentleman nigromancer – much of what I consider my art can be considered the work of blood and earth and the exchange between bridging the past and the present.

There is power in blood and there is power in soil. As Kardec writes in his Gospel:

Regenerating worlds serve as transition phases between those of probation and
happiness… [man] is still of flesh and blood, and because of this subject to vicissitudes fromwhich only the completely dematerialized beings are liberated. He still has to suffer tests, although without the pungent anguishes of atonement… But alas! Man is still fallible even in these worlds and the spirit of evil has not completely lost its empire. Not to advance is to fall back, and if Man is not firmly placed along the pathway to righteousness he may return again to a world of atonement where new and more terrible tests await.

Part of the work of the necromancer is to act in many ways as a spiritual midwife between the worlds both spiritual and physical and to dust off the detritus that often clings to the soul in the present world and the worlds beyond. Unfortunately, as we live in the evils of empire, many souls are not given the proper rites and, like the blood of Abel, cry up constantly from the earth seeking vengeance. This is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination, however I can’t help but to think that what we are seeing in our culture is the result of centuries of bloodshed with the dead, righteous and unrighteous, playing out a war in which the living are now unconscious participants.

Improperly cared for in death, souls can become every bit as feral as fierce alley cat and strike out at the living in their confused states. It is for this reason that many cultures preserve some form of placation for the ferocious dead, those who died in an unwashed state or those who in life experienced trauma. The blood soaked history of the United States with a long history of exploitation, slavery, war, and violence against the impoverished has created a mass grave where the wrathful dead walk side-by-side with the living and ‘suck the purest of your blood and open wounds which are almost always mortal‘ (Kardec). The psycho-spiritual wounds of the living become entry points for the dead to influence the living, often coercing them to play out the traumas they themselves experienced. It’s no surprise, then, that a century and a half after the Civil War the dead have come back to life to feed off the force of the living in an environment equally as conflicted as the world in which they lived.

Some have argued that the removal of monuments especial to the dead that honored their battles may be a source of their discontent. While not without merit, I have to politely disagree as these are monuments to memories of trauma that keep the spirits earthbound and frequently in a state of confusion in regard to their eventual liberation however earthly greatness, such as riches, titles, glory, nobleness of birth, etc., are impossible to take into death – the great equalizer. It is understood that the living may wish to commemorate their beloved dead, however not all experiences are desirable to remember and here it is important for us tending to the dead to continually wash them in the waters of wisdom, removing from them the blockages they have experienced in life and assisting the in integrating, re-calibrating, and healing disowned and under-realized aspects of themselves in life

Naturally, how this can be done may vary depending on one’s tradition. For myself, drawing upon the inspired teachings of the mystic Victor H. Anderson, I start by recognizing the sovereignty of the wrathful dead and invite them to participate in the processes I use in working what is commonly called the ‘iron pentacle’, a very useful tool worked for personal growth and understanding and for exploring strengths, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. In the practices shared by the spiritualism of Allan Kardec and spiritualist practices in Latinx and South America, prayers are frequently offered as well for the liberation of the dead.

The utility of liberating the dead may be the one of the best tools in the arsenal of the contemporary necromancer or witch and perhaps one that should be considered to help our collapsing society become reborn in a more holistic manner and avoid the errors of the past.

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Initiation

“There is something sacred to common apprehension in the repose of the dead. They seem placed beyond our power to disturb. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave”… Their remains moulder in the earth. Neither form nor feature is long continued to them. We shrink from their touch, and their sight. To violate the sepulchre therefore for the purpose of unholy spells and operations, as we read of in the annals of witchcraft, cannot fail to be exceedingly shocking. To call up the spirits of the departed, after they have fulfilled the task of life, and are consigned to their final sleep, is sacrilegious.” – Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers.

Two years ago I stepped through the gates of Lakeview on a cold November morning, much like this one, to pay my respects to the departed and to share a cigar and some brandy with one of the founders of my city. Snow was on the ground and I carefully knocked on the grave thrice, sang his name, recited the Pater Noster, Ave and Gloria and lit a cigar and poured brandy on the frozen earth causing the snow to melt in a cruciform shape.

I didn’t know what to expect then, but on my way out of the cemetery I found a twenty dollar bill on the ground, a sign I suppose that the old man heard my request for riches but beyond that, nothing spectral or noticeable. This time would be different.

INITIATION:

One’s introduction to the Dead so as to receive insight and acquire their services.

Thus, may one become a sorcerer. [1]

At the time of this writing, I’ve been involved in the pursuit of wisdom through the medium of occultism for about fifteen years, give or take, and have been fortunate to know many talented adepts and fellow students through the years in many traditions and disciplines. My own practice to this point could be said to be highly syncretistic yet difficult to put into words. I suppose my allergy to titles is probably to blame for this and probably one of the reasons I’ve found it difficult to put into words exactly what it is that I do.

There are many reasons people step onto the path of magic and the lives of the magicians I know are varied and fantastic. I know, for me, it was largely my inexhaustible curiosity that got me started on my path but now that seems to have changed – at least somewhat. For now, my motivation is to live out a narrative that will leave a story for others to follow or, as the twentieth century mythologist Joseph Campbell would say, to “live out my myth.”

In Scandinavian lore, the Wise Ones lived on the edges of social acceptability. They participated equally in village life as well as in the open desolate places haunted by spirits. Things haven’t changed much. Even though I’m very much removed from my rural origins and live in a large metropolitan city, the division between city life and open desolation at the start of the 21st century is much more liminal than one would presuppose and being queer as well as a magician in an age of disenchantment definitely puts me at odds with any kind of social acceptability.

Similarly, in an age when casual agnosticism seems to be the status quo, I refuse to succumb to the banality of prescribed religion or irreligion. Like the Wise Ones, I acknowledge the ecclesiastical year as well as older pantheons which allow me to communicate with the demons of the infernal hierarchies, gods of religions long since abandoned, and the spirits of the land which came before me and will survive long after.

As I walk past the gates, I leave a penny for the keeper of the cemetery, the Kyrkogrim, who in other times would have been connected to the church of a particular graveyard but nowadays in the New World seems to find himself equally at home at the oldest grave in our modern cemeteries. I wait for a moment to receive some indication that I may pass and watch the crucifix of my rosary for any motion. I’m allowed through and make my way along the winding avenues to the grave I visited a year earlier.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I begin and kneel at the tombstone, crossing myself.

“Your sight shall be in my sight, in whose name you rest here… could you, O Holy Ghost give to me of your power, in the name of the Holy Crucified One. Amen.”[2]

Though my eyes were closed, I saw an intense blinding light perhaps like that that fell upon the apostles at Pentecost or maybe like that seen by the dying as they transition from this world to the next. The work done, I see the faint outlines of human forms above their graves, like mist rising from the streets after a summer’s rain. The matter of the rite followed by the confirmation through the form of the ritual complete, I now step into a new mythic world, that of de kloka or Wise Ones.

I hesitate in any real way to refer to myself as particularly “wise”, but for the time being this is the reality that I have embraced and will share with you my experiences as time allows.

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[1] Johnson, Tom. The Graveyard Wanderers. Society of Esoteric Endeavour, 2013

[2] Ibid.

The First Post

IT would be easy, I suppose, to narrate my story like Oliver Twist and treat you to the place where I was born, and of the circumstances attending my birth; my growth, education, board and how I came to be the person I am after all my adventures and misadventures, but that would be impossible and perhaps a little tedious.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know the circumstances of my birth nor how Fate seemed it kind to fortunately place me in the loving hands of a family of farmers in the Puyallup River Valley who themselves were the children and grandchildren of homesteaders from Northern Europe, primarily. What I can tell you is about the beauty of growing up in a community – perhaps one of the last of its kind in my part of the world – where everyone knew everyone and everyone’s story. I grew up raising cattle, playing in the barns and cabins built by my maternal grandparents, and attending to the acres of raspberries and other crops we raised alongside Native American and Latino day laborers.

I went to the same school as my parents and my brothers before me. Many of my teachers were either former classmates of my parents and also had the pleasure and dismay of teaching my older brothers – depending on who’s telling the story at the time and how many beers have passed since we gathered around the bonfire blazing high with the limbs of corn and bramble branches with a healthy dose of gasoline thrown on top for show. These circumstances and many others may be unremarkable to some, perhaps you’ve experienced them yourself. This is of no matter because to me it was magic and that’s where my story begins.

After the fires died and my parents and their friends adjourned to the kitchen to warm themselves from the crisp Autumn cold, I stayed by the dying firelight and watched the shadows play off the cracked windows of the barn as the coyotes emerged from the grasses in the lowlands where the river used to flow before it was levied in order to provide farmers more place to field their livestock. In the dying firelight I saw sparks dance like miniature people rising toward the stars and descend into a labyrinth of red and black and gray. As the stars came out, I saw bodies wrap themselves in mist and congregate row after row in the berries and share stories with one another in words that I couldn’t hear.

When it came time for me to go to bed, I’d smell roses in the room where my grandmother spent the last years of her life with us as her body faded away and remember the times we’d spend praying the rosary and watching television while she smoked her Malibu thins and drank beer. I’d also remember stories of my uncle John, whom I never met, but probably would have liked if I knew him when he was alive. I also remember rushing past my the room where my great grandfather lived when I had to go to the bathroom at night because he honestly hated kids – good thing he was dead and would politely just close the door.

“The improvements that have been effected in natural philosophy have by degrees convinced the enlightened part of mankind that the material universe is everywhere subject to laws, fixed in their weight, measure and duration, capable of the most exact calculation, and which in no case admit of variation and exception… in the infancy and less mature state of human knowledge. The chain of causes and consequences was yet unrecognized; and events perpetually occurred, for which no sagacity that was then in being was able to assign an original. Hence men felt themselves habitually disposed to refer many of the appearances with which they were conversant to the agency of invisible intelligences; sometimes under the influence of a benignant disposition, sometimes of malice, and sometimes perhaps from an inclination to make themselves sport of the wonder and astonishment of ignorant mortals.”[i]

I don’t pretend to know how I came to magic, but I knew what it was – it was in the change of seasons, the agricultural cycles we followed, raising cattle from calf to steer, chicken from egg to hen, and all the stories of how my mother divined the names of me and my siblings’ by birth order with the aid of a Ouija board and pendulum. It was also in the apocryphal stories of a young monk who fell to his death and haunted what would become my alma mater. It was being taught by a large Native American woman how her people greeted the day and made offerings to the day. It was also in books that I stole from Barnes & Nobles that promised ancient wisdom and symbols to effect change on the face of reality. It was also singing Christmas carols with family and friends year, after year, after year and trips to Pike Place Market or going to the Washington Coast and seeing the sun rise and fall over the Pacific.

When I started my studies in magic, I knew it all. Not that I was some Merlin-like prodigy by any stretch of the imagination – hardly that at all – what I mean to say is that I was an unusually bright child with a penchant for tall tales and insatiable curiosity and wouldn’t shy away from causing mischief if it would suit my mercurial impishness or attitude problems. I suppose that’s why I ended up making the school bully get hit by a car, breaking his legs and hips, with the use of my mother’s sewing needles, a chicken heart and a heavily redacted ritual to the Horned God and Lady compliments of Cunningham [ii]and Leland[iii].

As I grew up and my family got the internet, I would spend hours researching whatever I could find on magic, folklore, and mythology. There wasn’t much back then, but there was Hermetic.com, hours of porn and learning the hard way the importance of making browser history disappear at the stroke of midnight. But then I digress – I’m a sucker for storytelling and thank you for your indulgences. I’ll need those when I go to join the ranks of the dead (hopefully a very long time away from now).

SO, why should this blog interest you?

Well, if you’ve found this blog it’s highly likely that you’re probably a magician of some stripe or one of my friends who’ve been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner.

If you’re the former, I hope that in sharing my observations and engaging in dialogue we might be able to inform our practices and respectfully critique our experiences in a courteous manner that is mutually beneficial to us as individuals as well as to the benefit of the level of discourse in the greater community.

If you’re a friend of mine whose been pestering me to get back to writing in a more focused manner, I apologize in advance for anything I write that might disappoint your estimation of my abilities, magical and mental prowess and penchant for shenanigans.

If it so happens you’re both, I think you’ll enjoy my writing and musings and occasional snarky comments on Ye Arte of Social Magic. In all seriousness, though, whether you’re a practicing magician or merely interested in it from an academic perspective (or secretly writing slash fic about me and need fodder to build a more believable character – in which case please share!) I imagine there will be something to delight and intrigue.

By and large, my esoteric interests lie in the history and phenomenology of magic from the Antique to Contemporary era. I’ll leave it for you to decide what this means, but in practice it largely means reading a lot of old texts like a 21st Century scholar and abusing them like a 12th Century renegade cleric. I’m primarily concerned with the intersections between necromancy and the grimoire genre as well as their influences and confluences into historical and contemporary spiritualism in both Old and New Worlds. On occasion I might veer off the beaten road and into other territories such as American folkloric witchcraft, pre-Christian Scandinavian religion, Chaos magic, lodge ceremonial, and indigenous or traditional practices of the New World, but for the most part what you’ll be reading are the musings of a very Cascadian, would-be Wise One following the paths of the magicians and graveyard wanderers who came before me and hopefully leading those who will come after down an interesting path.

 

[i] Godwin, William. Lives of the Necromancers: Or, An Account of the Most Eminent Persons in Successive Ages, Who Have Claimed for Themselves, or to Whom Has Been Imputed by Others, the Exercise of Magical Power. London: F.J. Mason, 1834.

[ii] (Sorry) Cunningham, Scott. Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993.

[iii] Leland, Charles Godfrey. Aradia; Or, The Gospel of the Witches. London: D. Nutt, 1899.