Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Liber Resh vel Helios is a favourite ritual of mine although it seems a bit garbled. There's probably no hope of ever weaning the born again Thelemic types(1) from the Crowley version - but others might like to consider an alternative version. In Egyptian Theology, Seth was said to be one of the emanations of 'Ra' or 'Amun Ra'. Thus in the famous image of Ra in his night time boat in the underworld, the passive 'authorizing' image of Ra, has various emananations, most famously as Seth to ward off Apophis, the demon of 'non-being' at one of the dangerous twilights just before dawn. The theology of Amun Ra was put together during the so-called Ramesside period. The Ramesside's had a continued loyalty to their Sethian ancestors. Amun was originally a mysterious god of wind and air .Amun-Ra’s role is very like the 'pantocrator' of later Hermetic philosophy - a fact that underlies the Egyptian roots of Hermeticism. Egyptian theology conserved Amun-ra to have three aspects - much as they divided everything else up into three, the day, the years etc. The three are :
Morning sun - Kephra (Beetle)- literally the 'becoming one' (2)
Midday sun - Ra (Falcon)
Evening or setting sun - Tum or Atum (Ram)
Crowley, along with a lot of contemporary magi, felt compelled to cast all ritual material into the fourfold schema of earth, air, fire and water. (see Crowley's reframing of PGM ?? otherwise known as Liber Samech.). I agree this is all very psychologically pleasing to the modern mind but it MAY be alien to the Egyptian mindset. Even so - the above schema lends itself to a fourth, 'hidden' or 'secret name' of the sun at midnight. You might like to remind yourself of the legend of Isis and the secret name of Ra, a version of which is given in my book Tankhem. Now it might be that you prefer to keep this as an individual secret? Alternatively if there is a secret name or midnight version of Ra, then i would think it could be a Hidden god such as Osiris, or maybe even Horus. They all have lots going for them in this role. Whereas 'Kephra' as the midnight sun doesn't really get you very far and seems at odds with the original mythology. So the rite lends itself to personal customization depending on the magicians own will - but one version could be:
1. In a footnote to a new edition of Crowley's Magick - there is a feeble attempt to explain the apparent 'mixed metaphor' engendered by the insertion into the schema of the goddess (A)Hathor - who otherwise really seems out of place - Bast/Sekhmet/Hathor/Tefnut can sometime represent other aspects of the sun in its course, especial the counterpart of Bast (morning sun), Sekhmet (fiery sun)
2. The contemporary Temple of Seth seem to have adopted this as their titulary diety, hence ‘Xeper’ - the ‘X’ is actually Greek 'Kh'
1. HAIL UNTO THEE WHO ART KEPHRA IN THY RISING
EVEN UNTO THEE WHO ART KEPHRA IN THY STRENGTH
WHO TRAVELLEST OVER THE HEAVENS IN THY BARK
AT THE UPRISING OF THE SUN
2. HAIL UNTO THEE WHO ART RA IN THY TRIUMPH
EVEN UNTO THEE WHO ART RA IN THY BEAUTY
WHO TRAVELLEST OVER THE HEAVENS IN THY BARK
AT THE MIDCOURSE OF THE SUN
3. HAIL UNTO THEE WHO ART TUM IN THY SETTING
EVEN UNTO THEE WHO ART TUM IN THY JOY
WHO TRAVELLEST OVER THE HEAVENS IN THY BARK
AT THE DOWNGOING OF THE SUN
4. HAIL UNTO THEE WHO ART HIDDEN IN THY HIDING
EVEN UNTO THEE WHO ART HIDDEN IN THY SILENCE
WHO TRAVELLEST OVER THE HEAVENS IN THY BARK
AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR OF THE SUN
TAHUTI (or SETH) STANDS IN HIS SPLENDOR AT THE PROW
AND INTELLIGENCE IS AT THE HELM
HAIL UNTO THEE FROM THE ABODES OF NIGHT!
HAIL UNTO THEE FROM THE ABODES OF MORNING!
HAIL UNTO THEE FROM THE ABODES OF DAY
HAIL UNTO THEE FROM THE ABODES OF EVENING!
Friday, November 25, 2005
Is there any real difference between magick and religion? I don’t think so – and indeed this issue has been raised in several recent books, including my own Bull of Ombos. On the whole, magick has not been well served by anthropology, starting with the old Frazerian distinction between magic and religion; magic and science. Apparently the eminent historian Ronald Hutton has now entered the fray, with a slightly different take. Speaking at the recent Witchfest, he acknowledged that ancient Egypt is the big exception, (which is a very big and important exception). Even so, he thought a parting of the ways did occur from the early Christian era onwards and only in very recent times was this supposed difference between magic and religion beginning to break down. His views coincides very much with that of the Christian theologians, who were at great pains to persuade people that JC was neither a magician nor exorcist! But is that really true? When looking at the classical roots of magick, the key questions are :
Do the gods practice magick?
Is there a god of magick?
Are priests and magicians the same people?
The answer for ancient Egypt is yes to all of the above
Answer in non-Christian world is yes to all of the above
Answer in Christian world is maybe?
The other issue we discussed at the recent Talking Stick was on the related matter of the roots of magick. The eminent Egyptologist Jan Assmann, argues in his book, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, that liturgy is the root of the Egyptian magical religion and not as you might think, some form of individual mystical experience. Liturgy equals ‘public worship in accordance with a prescribed form’ – for example actions performed at rites of passage such as death. Liturgy is not so far away from magick – especially if one contemplates, as the Egyptians often did, what happens when you threaten the gods to abandon their liturgy unless they give you what you desire!
Emma from an organisation called HAD - canvassed my opinion on reburial of museum artefacts. The subject of archaic burial seems to be very much on my personal agenda just now. Here are my initial thoughts - feedback welcomed:
1. Death House
I'd say that the artefacts should, where possible placed in a non-volatile, collective 'valhalla' , 'death house' or 'ossary' in such a way that they can be reexamined or reinterred if necessary. This also makes it possible for people with a reconstructed religious sensibiltiy to have some sort of ongoing interaction with the remains (an indeed future academics to do new research).
Special attention needs to be taken with orientation (this could equally apply to human remains in museums)
The first principle is cardinality - the head should be orientated to one of the cardinal directions, probably in the north but facing east. Care should be taken to avoid inversions - eg: skulls should be prevented from rolling jaw uppermost ( a common feature of ancient execration burial) - if the remains come from an existing execration burial then this raises the issue of whether this arrangement needs to be preserved.
The collection of 'red ochre' is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of human activities and this is almost invariable a feature of archaic burials - so replenishing the ochre in some actual or symbolic way might be appropriate perhaps as the inner lining of the 'death house'.
4. 'Opening the mouth'
This is another archiac and almost universal practice accomplished via spoken prayers of transfiguration said over the reinterred remains - unknown remains could be given a 'name' or possibly an 'epithet' as part of this process. Otherwise, i'd say the rites should involve other forms of sound especially music - the bottom line being the intoning of the seven sacred vowels and other forms of polyphonic music, such as flutes, didgeridoos, gentle drumming, etc.
The eventual resting place should be marked and facilitate at least the occasional ceremony of remembrance.
Seems like Samhain continues as a season right up to Armistice day on the 11th, or perhaps Remembrance sunday - maybe even until the end of this moon on 15th November? Although feeling a little blank - I went along to the G.O.D.S. samhain ritual on the 5th November. A dry windy night during which the leaves fell from the trees like departing souls - which reminded me of Omm Sety's account of Thoth's 'Tree of Destiny' quoted in my book, Tankhem:
She says there is 'a belief among the Moslems in Egypt that in Paradise is a tree called 'Tree of Destiny', which bears as many leaves as there are people in the world. Each leaf bears the name of each person living, but in the middle of the Arabic month of Shaaban (which is followed by the fasting month of Ramadan), the tree shakes, and the leaves bearing the names of those persons destined to die in the coming years fall down. It has long been the custom for children to gather in groups at sunset on the evening of the fateful day and go round the streets singing: 'O Lord of the Tree of Destiny, make our leaves strong and green upon its brjanches, For we, O Lord, are your little children.'
Its been a samhain I won't forget - my mother died just two weeks ago and the funeral a week later. She was 80 years old and had been fading for a few years - so it wasn't a surprise but the her struggles at the end were quite traumatic.
So it was particularly poignant to be again leading the samhain walk and visit to St Cross churchyard for the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Kenneth Grayam, where we read the following extract from Wind in the Willows:
`This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. `Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'
Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror -- indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy -- but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered. (from chapter 7)
After that we went to the tomb of Charles Williams, Inkling and member of the GD. Being a poet thought he might appreciate Yeats' All Soul's Night. We finished with a sung lament and individual poems. Thanks Wayland for the Irish ghost story, Payam for the poem and Sharron for the voice.
Next stop Bath Omphalos for a talk on Seth:
'contemporary magical practitioners have always been interested in the 'problem of evil' - the nature of good and bad action. Take for example Helena Blavatsky's statement - 'demon est deus inversus' to be found in her highly influential and monument work 'The Secret Doctrine' (1888:1.411). This was later adopted by the poet W B Yeats as his magical motto in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Most practitioners believe that the ancient Egyptian god Seth is the prototype for the contemporary archetype of Lucifer, Satan or the Devil. I want to take a brief look, in context, at the famous image of Seth deriding Apophis, (the demonic / chaotic serpent of 'non-being') as a leitmotiv for the nature or 'personification' of evil in ancient thought. '
here's a report of the talk - someone must have been paying attention:
The Egyptian God Seth: the Personification of Evil?
>A talk by Mogg Morgan for Omphalos 12/11/05
The existence of evil poses as much of a dilemma for practical
occultists as for philosophers and theologians. One possible solution
was presented by Blavatsky in chapter ten of "The Secret Doctrine",
and may be summed up by the phrase "Demon est deus inversus", which
was subsequently adopted as the magical motto of W.B. Yeats.
Mogg discussed how Blavatsky, whose work drew upon Coptic and
Ethiopian sources for the Bible as well as Vedic texts, saw Satan as
an eternal power "required by the equilibrium and harmony of things
in nature." She used the Qabalistic image of a double pyramid (much
like the Yin Yang symbol, combining black and white as a reflection
of each other). This imagery suggests that Satan is no more or less
than the mirror image of God. Some of the greatest Qabalistic
scholars were believed to be descended from Cain.
Moving on to the iconography of Seth, depicted as a dog-like creature
with a long snout and square-tipped ears, Mogg explained how the
detail of Seth's fork-tipped tail may be identified as the Pesesh-Ket
knife, a ritual tool for severing the umbilical cord. This tool was
made from meteoric iron, a metal associated with Seth. Interestingly,
the name of Apophis, the Demon of Non Being who is slain daily by
Seth, is also the same as the Egyptian word for "umbilical cord".
This reflects an important distinction between the Osirian funerary
rites, which focussed on death and an afterlife, and the earlier
Sethian rituals which looked to rebirth.
Mogg commented upon the genesis of contemporary Setian groups, from
their origins with the Church of Satan, from which a faction evolved
into the Temple of Seth, and then subsequently gave birth to a group
called The Storm. As these groups have developed, their methods and
philosophy also appear to have undergone a radical transformation
from Anton LaVey's original "Word of Indulgence". Mogg eschewed a
rigid stance on the claim that Seth is not Satan, suggesting
that "the jury is still out on that one."
Many Victorian translations of Egyptian texts glossed over attitudes
or ritual methods that were thought to be inappropriate or shocking.
More correct translations are now coming to light, and reveal
Egyptian magicians threatening the gods, much as a Goetic magician
might threaten and compel demons. Mogg quoted from "An Invocation
Against Osiris" and "The Cannibal Hymn", which speaks of the dead
king becoming a god so powerful that he eats all the other gods.
Neolithic Egyptians practiced dismemberment and ritually ate part of
the deceased's body.
Many Egyptian spells involve eating or drinking magical texts to
absorb their power. These practices derive from the oldest forms of
Egyptian beliefs. In the Greek Magical Papyrii, names of power may be
distinguished by the care taken to ensure correct pronunciation, and
this enables us to identify "Seth" as a name of power,
whilst "Typhon" is merely a title made accessible for the Greeks.
Describing a detailed image from the Payrus Heruba, Mogg commented
that the Egyptians may have perceived the greatest possible evil
as "Non Being", represented by the serpent Apophis, who is shown here
being slain by Seth.
An informal and original talk that left me pondering over some of
the "sacred cows" of Egyptian magic.
Seems like Samhain continues as a season right up to amerstice day on the 11th, or perhaps Remembrance sunday - maybe even until the end of this moon on 15th November? Although feeling a little blank - i went along to the G.O.D.S. samhain ritual on the 5th November. A dry windy night suring which the leaves fell from the trees like departing souls - reminded me of the Omm Sety's account of Thoth's 'Tree of Destiny' quoted in my book, Tankhem:
She says there is 'a belief among the Moslems in Egypt that in Paradise is a tree called 'Tree of Destiny' , which bears as many leaves as there are people in the world. Each leaf bears the name of each person living, but in the middle of the Arabic month of Shaaban (which is followed by the fasting month of Ramadan), the tree shakes, and the leaves bearing the names of those persons destined to die in the coming years fall down. It has long been the custom for children to gather in groups at sunset on the evening of the fateful day and go round the streets singing: 'O Lord of the Tree of Destiony, make our leaves strong and green upon its brranches, For we, O Lord, are your little children.'
11 September 05 – Ganesha Chaturti
Well actually that was last week on the fourth day of the new moon, but near enough. Ganesha is our house deity and has been ever since I can remember. My interest in the Mercurial/Jupitarian God dates back to my student days in the 1970s, when I travelled to Chennai to study Sanskrit. I was also engaged in spiritual work for the fourth degree of the OTO (Typhonian style). The instructions, such as they were, were based upon the grade-work of Crowley’s Argentinum Astrum. They required a period of devotional work to a deity of one’s own choice. Ganesha seemed more than appropriate although in the end my work was deemed inadequate – largely because it only lasted four weeks – and I had to repeat the whole exercise. Even so, it was quite prescient, as since that time I’ve witnessed the steady growth in popularity of Ganesha among the neo-pagan movement. Some of my ideas have just emerged in a new ebook called ‘Tantra Sadhana’ which can be obtained for a modest $14 from: www.OccultArts.co.uk.
I really enjoy cleaning up the hearth, which can get a bit cluttered over the months. Then rearranging the sacred things, the centrepiece a large bronze statue of Ganesha, which after a good polishing, is adorned with his favourite red and white flowers. Ganeshsa always gets at least one of those India sweets known as Ludoos he loves so much. Ludoos are often the ritual offerengs (prasad)_ at temples such as Tirupati near Chennai (Madras). Every pilgrim comes away with at least one. The sweets are also used the weigh down the eyes of the recently deceased – either as offering to the ferryman, or as some sort of sympathetic magick to ensure a good rebirth. The ludoo’s round shape is supposed to mimic that of the foetus awaiting birth in the womb. I don’t know when Ganesha ate his ludoo, but it’s already gone. A sign of good luck for the coming year – there are already signs that it is so.
This year, another innovation. Like many occultists I tend to accumulate little trinkets from either mine or others travels. Tidying up, my partner and I decided to pile them into the cauldron, so they can receive the blessings of the house god. It’s full to brimming now with good things – all of which will do service whenever we have need of a little offering – or want to pass on the blessings to a curious visitor.
Most years I make little plaster castings of Ganesha to be offered up in the local sacred river on the final day of the festival. This year we took some of the special stones from the cauldron and offered these instead. Seemed the right thing to do – this day is sometimes called ‘stone-throwing’ fourth – and in the poetic invocation, that was one of my earliest efforts in translation it asks the listener to ‘imagine an island, made of seven previous stones.’ Several of these semiprecious stones are now lying on the bed of the Cherwell, near to where it forms a sacred confluence with the Isis. May the god’s blessings be on all who read this.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
The Theosophical Society still presents many of us on 'the path' with a highly instructive narrative concerning the vicissitudes of magical organisations or 'Orders'. Founded, in the year of Crowley's nativity, it has outlived many of its rivals, although in these, its twilight years, it has become a hereditary clan (See K Paul Johnson 'Hereditary Successors').
One of the Theosophical Society's best selling guides to its ideals is and was Mabel Collins' Light and the Path. This book even made it into the curriculum of Crowley's Argentinum Astrum. Old Crow was obviously a serious admirer, saying of Collins' novel The Blossom and the Fruit, that it was 'probably the best existing account of the theosophical theories presented in dramatic form'. With such admiration I wonder if there is any link between Crowley's 'Star Sapphire' ritual and Collins' novel of the same name, published in 1896? But in the words of this recently published and first ever biography: 'who was Mabel Collins?'
It's surprisingly easy for someone as magically connected as Mabel Collins to suddenly sink without trace, submerged by a pseudo-scandal cooked up, in this instance, by the larger than life founder of the Theosophical Society, H P Blavatsky or HPB for short. HPB was the archetypal 'charlatan and magus', setting the theosophical ball rolling, and at the same instance a magical current that eventually gave birth to the Hermetical Order of the Golden Dawn and all of its neo-pagan successors. Cantankerous and addicted to celebrity, she recognised Mabel Collins' talent but eventually dropped her in favour of an even brighter star called Annie Besant. In hindsight many might now wonder how different the fortunes of the TS might have been, if Collins had been able to fulfil her destiny to lead it after the death of its founder. Perhaps even Crowley would have abandoned his own secret pretensions to take over the reins of power (see The Unknown God/Starr 2004)?
I very much liked the Mabel that emerged from this bitter-sweet biography. Of humble origins, she rose far above what the Victorians might have considered her natural station, to become a popular sensationalist novelist. Later she developed her distinctive brand of the spiritual writing - selflessly signing over the copyright to the Theosophical Society, and this, despite their later callous rejection of her. Undaunted, she soldiered on, still writing and campaigning on the related spiritual issues such of anti-vivisection. That animal welfare is a good barometer of a culture's spiritual health is a truth first attested by the rise of Buddhism. It's a remarkable fact that 2500 years ago, the Buddhist emperor Ashoka built hundreds of dispensaries all over his kingdom for human and veterinary medicine - it should tell you a lot about that civilization.
In the end, Mabel was laid low by the vagaries of the publishing world, especially the ad hoc nature of American copyright law, which seemed to allow any number of pirate copies of her novels - at the same time driving her into bankruptcy. Tolkien suffered a similar fate!
Mabel sunk into genteel poverty and obscurity, eventually dying of heart disease, in the Cheltenham home of one of her remaining admirers. If you think she deserves more than that, why not read her story and in the words of the bard:
'So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.'
Monday, October 17, 2005
Mysteries of Mithras: the pagan belief that shaped the Christian world. By Payam Nabarz,
Inner Traditions, 2005 isbn 1594770271 $14.95 approx £14.99, 230pp, heavily illustrated.
This is an engaging and entertaining book encompassing the author _ s personal journey into the magick of a Roman mystery cult. The author, who has an Iranian background, was drawn to the schema of initiatory work, as set out in Aleister Crowley _ s Liber Astarte. The idea of this particular practice is to counteract the overly intellectual character of the western mystoi, to thereby activate a more devotional mind set. Many on this path find it useful to work in a tradition that already possesses some form of cultural resonance. It was for this reason that the author chose to work with Mithraism. This book is one of the fruits of that labour. Not surprisingly the book therefore presents a lively combination of mystical insight and academic research.
The first half of the book sets out the basics of the Mithraic history and iconography. This section is a mine of interesting information, perhaps a little breathless in delivery; only occasionally inaccurate, well illustrated and often thought provoking. It is here that the author sets out certain facts concerning the influence of Mithraism on Early Christian iconography. In reality this is a minor component of the book, although the one that the publisher, rather misleadingly in my opinion, chooses to make the book _ s chief selling point. Personally I wasn _ t too convinced by this line of reasoning. I agree that Mithraism had some impact on Christianity after its rise to Roman state religion in the third century. However I cannot see how this justifies the conclusion that it shaped the Christian world _ surely if anything, Christianity shaped the Christian world?
The book _ s real core is the revivalist material, where over several chapters, the author sets out the main components of the cult. Here it adheres as much as sources will allow, to the inner workings of the Roman cult. Thus there is a chapter on the celebrated _ Mithras Liturgy _ _ a sorcerous rite used by the mage, whose library of magical books was only discovered in the last century, after two millennia buried in the sands of the desert. Into this mix, the author adds some material from the Persian manifestation of the cult, with a chapter on the pre-Zoroastrian goddess Anahita. This does much to correct the false impression that the cult of Mithras is only for the macho.
Some of these themes continue in what is undoubtedly the core of the book, a modern reconstruction of the seven fold initiatory schema of Mithraism. Archaeological and textual records demonstrate that the cult shared the classical world _ s obsession with the symbolism of the number seven _ seven stars in the starry plough, seven steps to heaven, seven Hathos etc., etc. Perhaps we shouldn _ t be surprised that the actual details of a mystery cult are now lost to us. So the author uses whatever is to hand, grafting material from classical and Persian sources, and indeed where necessary reusing contemporary magical material, until the result is a pleasing revivalist version. I sometimes found it a little hard to see the join. Also, although the material works well as a literary fugue, I wasn _ t sure how it would pan out as an actual set of ritual workings? The rubric was a tad confusing. But I for one was happy to just read it as a literary creation - which is indeed a form of trance or meditation work. Anything else and I wouldn _ t be sure if I was supposed to be breaking off from the train of thought, to put more wood on the bonfire. Seen this way, this book did take me on an interesting and thoughtful excursion into the uncharted territory. - [mogg]
Saturday, October 01, 2005
‘a rush of mephitic air from the unsealed depths’
Kenneth Grant, The Ninth Arch (Starfire Publishing 02) £30
available from www.mandrake.uk.net
‘Can you in good conscience recommend "The Ninth Arch" to someone who is only familiar with some of the early work of Grant? That is, is the new book comprehensible to a neophyte of Grant's work or should I resume investigation elsewhere in his canon, in the improbable event that copies can be found? I've read "AC and the Hidden God" and part of "The Magical Revival".’
Umm good question. I regard myself as a child of the first trilogy, Cults of the Shadow, Magical Revival and Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God. I never really expected the second trilogy to even appear – Nightside of Eden, Outside the Circles of Time and Hecate’s Fountain; and I never even looked at the third trilogy, Outer Gateways, The Mauve Zone and now the Ninth Arch. So perhaps I am a bit of a guinea pig and give it a go. I was surprised how intriguing the Ninth Arch can be. I found it, to use KG’s own words ‘a rush of mephitic air from the unsealed depths’, a ‘Kamsin blast.’ truly something different in a word of publishing mediocrity.
‘The Ninth Arch is an ancient Masonic concept relating to the legend of the three Grand Masters engaged upon the erection of King Solomon’s Temples. After it was completed, the three deposited therein those things which were important to the craft, such as the arc of the covenant, a pot of manna, the rod of Aaron, the book of the law etc.’ Inscribed about it was the lost or unutterable Word.’ The purpose of Grant’s book is to explain this mystery and reveal the word.
The heart of Grant’s book is a 924 verse Book of the Spider, a mystical text channelled to Grants New-Isis Lodge in the 1950s. Around this sutra, Grant weaves almost six hundred pages of comment, mainly in the form of mini essays. It sounds an unpromising structure but it really works and is well suited to the lucid dreamers or to use Grant’s parlance, the inhabitants of the mauve zone to whom this books is addressed. Having no acquaintance with Grant’s earlier work might actually make this book even more evocative. There were some very obscure sections that would only really make sense if I totally entered into Grant’s system, but there were many comments that seemed to throw light on almost any style of magick.
After all it is the books central thesis that something out there is trying to tell us something using a whole variety of mediums and modes of communication. Crowley, he tells us, ‘with prophetic acumen [ ] presaged the massive interest in alien phenomena which erupted soon after his death and which was caused by Kenneth Arnold’s ‘flying saucer’ sighting [in 1947]. Whatever one’s attitude to such phenomena – positive, negative or indifferent – there is no just denial of the fact that the wave initiated an era of psychomythology unparalleled since man conceived the idea of the ‘gods’…. unless, therefore, we are to write off the entire ‘myth’ as an unprecedented mass delusion, we have to accept the fact that something approaching a seemingly new and inexplicable nature began slowly and insidiously to disturb the world in the year 1947.’. (p xix)
Acting on the assumptions that ‘Many a true word spoken in jest’; ‘the ‘ritualists of the New Isis Lodge utilized certain novels and stories as other magicians might use paintings or musical compositions to effect perichoresis and astral encounters’ xxxvi. Apart from the usually occult litany, H P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood et al Grant primary source is Richard Marsh’s novel The Beetle which contains the only published account known [to Grant] of the Children of Isis who emerge in the channelled text in rather startling form.
I haven’t read Marsh’s novel but guess that Grant’s reworking of it is likely to be far more evocative. Really Grant’s books are a new artform what I have in the past called ‘auto-romance’. I picked it up near the end of the day, not expecting a factual hit, although there are some fascinating facts here somewhere – but more as a collective grimoire. I take a little snort and am then primed to enter the mauve zone. Here’s a little taster.
31-2 below the tunnels of the spider hanging athwart the network of alleys choked in the mud, the sand of the Mokkatam hills …
The spider is here symbolic of the web of alleys that existed at the time Crowley received from Aiwass “The threefold book of the Law”, not far distant from the Mokkatam hills. This verse sets the scene for a series of events concerning the Children of Isis, of whose activities a fragmentary account was given in fictional form by Richard March writing in the 1890s. It is assumed that he was oblivious of the actuality of the events he described. It may not be so easy to assume that he was not an indirect descendant of that Obed Marsh of who Lovecraft writes in The Shadow over Innsmouth. It is also not impossible that he was related to Dr. Phineas March Black, a great uncle of the present commentator. Details of Dr. Black’s mysterious life are given in Against the Light, which contains much information relevant to this Book OKBISh. Note that the present verse constitutes verse Thirty-One of the Books as a whole.’
Kenneth Grant’s numerology may be suspect, his historical sources unreliable, but his poetical intuition is strangely prescient. I may not want to be part of the only true order but I can’t help admiring his eclecticism, his culture, his generosity towards other artists and writers. So this book is not be quite the triumphal arch many were hoping for to top out the edifice of previous books, but it is a final act from a highly creative magician and writer who has done more than any other living adept to explicate Crowley’s magical universe and to initiate us all into some very sinister mysteries.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Many thanks. Received your books today. Always interested in the deep & wide-ranging work you present.Although I have great respect for your viewpoint, I have reservations about the "central role" that is being given to Seth by yourself & some other authorities. Of course, this is the revival of an ancient argument - within the multi-dimentional world of the ancient Egyptian's belief-systems there was much paradox & contradiction, all of which to our modern & more dogmatic age is still somewhat inexplicable - therefore your viewpoint is quite acceptable, as are others, such as Ptah as the Heart & Tongue of the Gods , or of Neith, Weaving the Universe. If later Egyptian history could be discounted & the psychological importance of Horus as the Pharaonic paradigm could be set aside, then the very importance of the "Sethian Fire" being cast in the role of Shadow & Enemy could perhaps be discounted. Yet who are we to be able to do this? These Neters or divine personas all play their part in a great Cosmic Drama. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us & forgive these words, if they seem critical, for this was not my intention. The subtlety of ancient Egyptian thought which has been my life's study, is all I seek to affirm. - JS
Dear JS - its refreshing to get some feedback - there is always an element of distortion whenever one takes a point of view - i'm not really meaning to minimise the role of the other gods - merely to discuss Seth - who is a little neglected - especially in relation to magick -and in the process to throw a light upon some unusual aspects of his cult - even in ancient Egypt there must have been those who were out of step with the main thrust of Egyptian religion if only because, by accident of birth, or whatever - they find themselves custodians of the cult shrines of that god.
Yes I agree Egyptian thought is not one monolithic whole - there are several trends - I’ve been reading jeremy naydler's new book 'shamanism and the pyramid texts' where he tackles the vexed question of the invisibility of any supposed 'Egyptian wisdom' or 'mystery'. He is criticising, from the perspective of phenomenology of religion, those specialists who say the Egyptians were practical people - not given to introspection - where all this religion stuff is shunted off for some time after death -
In my book I discuss the way in which ‘the dead’ are ‘used’ for the benefit of living. And I wonder whether this might not be further support for the Naydler’s thesis concerning an Egyptian mystery cult – in that it shows how the living think and use magick to benefit their own lives, whilst still living and how this involves a transaction with the dead and the ancestors.
Friday, September 09, 2005
text inside bottle
Manifesto of the Magical Artist
When we first started out on this project the language was prim-evil. Midnight is now. [...]
Every spirit has its age and every age has its spirit.
Every beginning is a beginning.
Time for another one.
Art, always the spirit of its age, be open. [. . .]
[. . .] We live for one hundred and twenty years.
OK scrub that - maybe its not making sense. Ask yourself why do pagans and liberatarians have an instinctive affinity? What is it about modern musick that drives those, who listen to it, closer to their pagan roots? Should the members of your tribe be blood relatives? What intelligent person thinks that the family is the pinnacle of social evolution? How about 'love, well made, leads to liberation'?
Maybe you are an artist with a pagan heart?
The Interpretation or commentary
Maybe its time to rewrite the surrealist manifestos, as the surrealists in turn rewrote those of the rosicrucians. Art and magick need a new statement of intent. As magical artists we can take as a starting point, any random or found object that comes our way. Thus the importance of the fragmentary statement found in an imaginary bottle. Its seems to be a fragment of a conversation, perhaps between the magi, discussing their own history and the need for a new beginning. There are parallels here with the writing of history. History is a creative act - history has even being called the selection or creation of facts. This is not to deny that such and such an event actually happened at some point in the past. But the number of forgotten events outweighs those that have escaped the ravages of time. The survival of a 'fact' from the past is a fortuitous or magical event in itself. Magi call these things 'apports', surrealists call them 'found objects' and in connnection with them talked of the 'certainty of accident'.
Magical artists are fond of reconstructing the past. You may ask why. Maybe it is because the past provides us with a font of found object, through which we can construct something new. Everyone assumes art is creation out of a vacuum. Some of the greatest works of art have been excerises in rule-governed creativity. The painter of the Sistine chapel may have been surprised when the Pope gave him a list of rules that should be observed in his work - size, number and overall nature of the composition.
The art of the European renaissance, besides being based on pagan principles, was catalysed by 'found objects' - classical sculpture emerging in the back gardens of the rich and famous. The earth has revitalised them, stripping them of their patina, so that they were an illusion of the past. These 'found objects' formed the basis of a new pagan art of the renaissance. The process has been repeated, so that 'objects' seen in theosphical trance become the working stuff of abstract art. The biggest found object of the last two hundred years is the remergence of Egyptian art from the sands of the desert where it had been exiled by the evil Roman emporer Theodosius after the closure of all the temples of Egypt. The early christians hacked away the faces of the gods so that their magick would be turned back, then they systematically looted the temples, burning 'worthless' paper and forgetting the rest in the desert. Egypt will not be with us for much longer and will soon retreat in a feint memory.
For the magical artist, creativity is not mererly the construction of something new but the revealing or uncovering of something already latent in the world, perhaps something secret or hidden. For example when you look up at the clouds and see pictures or faces, you may be bringing to conscious manifestation what is already there. Crowley, when discussing the Devil card from his tarot, spoke of the twin gaze of the artist, one eye creating a universe and the other accepting all that is created.
Art is what artists do. That is to say that the definition of art can only be found in the activity of artists, who are, in a way, like shamans. A shamanic artist like Picasso produced images and metaphors that were new and unfamilar. People said it did not look like the real thing. His reply was that we would come to see it in the way he had described it - his vision would transform ours. To go with this process you need a lot of faith in the integrity of the artist and one part of this is knowledge that he or she has gone through some sort of 'initiatory process', only then can we trust their vision. Perhaps this is what is meant by the well known phrase 'drawing is the integrity of art'.
What is the new artform of the Magical Artist
Something tells me this will be 'auro-romance'; which is defined in the surrealist dictionary as 'the artist entering into the mythology of his or her creation. An early example is to be found in the work of the Marquis de Sade (q.v.), although the principles of auto-romantic art are being redefined in the post-relativist scientific era.'
. . . to be continued
Glossary of terms, in group magical artists and, as yet, unused literary apports 'Always astonish' Gurdjieff. 'A preposterous exordium.' Dadaji PEOPLE ARE FREE TO BE FAMILY WITH WHOEVER & WHEREVER THEY ARE, And YES! Of course the time is now, when else would it be? Hey, I LOVE J Jennie asks 'do you think the meaning of the new feminism is the power of hysteria? Science is not cheating. Madness is a spiritual state. All attachments become idolatrous. Trust bed stroke touch let go moult shine sting dream
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Talking Stick at the much improved local hostelry - the Port Mahon. The discussion on power animals and animal spirit guides. Which brought to mind how several friends had their first contact with 'power' animals in rather traumatic ways. I remember how Chesca said she was once thrown from her horse and trampled, but from then on, the horse was always a special presence in her magical universe. Another friend, Dwina, was once repeatedly bitten by a venomous spider. She woke from a lucid arachnid dream just in time to prevent further bites. I remembered one of those seminal dreams when I was pursued night after night by a large wolf-like or alsatian canid. It only stopped when I turned and confronted the beast - letting it do its worst. Consummed by the dog, there was always a part of me that could not be eaten - which brings to mind the lines from the Bhagavad Gita - that the transcendental Self cannot be killed.
23 August 05 - Pagan Animal Rights
Judith writes, having recently moved to Carcassonne, France, and rather upset to discover that bullfighting is still practiced locally, despite the fact that in August 2001 it was outlawed in Carcassonne as there was no proof that this blood sport had ever been in existence in the area. But somehow the promoters, aided by the Spanish Mayor got their way. Since that date three days in August of every year have been set aside for the killing of bulls!
She is calling upon one and all to help halt the next round of bullfights (Corrida) in Carcassonne, France. And with this in mind constructed a sigil to help provide a focus for those who want to see an end to this brutal practice. The dates we need to concentrate on are the following:-
Friday 26 August
Saturday 27 August
Sunday 28 August
Please forward to others. - May Set be with you.'
[There's a sigil to go with this which i will try to display here]
18 August 05 - Pope attacks Neopaganism
'And in the twentieth century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry. ' Pope Benedict, Cologne
It is worth emphasizing that people of many religions, including magicians and occultists, were arrayed on both sides of the conflict, probably more with the allies than the fascist. It is an important issue that IMO needs careful discussion - several occult authors have, in a way, made similar claims.
See for example Hitler and the Age of Horus or Morning of the Magicians. It is probably one of the most important issues facing the neo-pagan movement and the new Pope is very clever to have found that weakness. Personally I see this as all the more reason to engage with 'blood and soil' runesters - and indeed 'satanists', even 'theosophists' and those who promulgate the so-called 'western way' - engage so that they see the error of their ways. This is not to concede the argument to the catholic church - of course it is a smokescreen – fascism is an economic system developed from capitalism - the 'occult' elements are overplayed - more a symptom than the cause. Some would argue that anti-semitism stems as much from the Christian message, others have seen it as even older, coming from events in ancient Egypt. There is a danger that those who aspire to lead the pagan movement - will have a poor understanding of the issues. For a very informed historical background I recommend goodriche clarke's occult roots of fascism. I'v also posted on this blog an old essay, Fascism and the Occult, that discusses some of the history in more depth
BTW: If you don't think it is still a live issues take a look at this passage, reputedly from an interview with Edred Thorson.
'Stephen Flowers and the Third Reich
mc> Can you say a little more - the quote you give below is IMHO a bit ambiguous. What does Flowers mean by 'the Third Reich's dynamism got out of hand' -it sound as if he saying that the third Reich had some positive qualities, at least
when starting out. I could never accept that proposition.
Of course the Third Reich had some positive qualities when first starting out -- every social system does, since it's almost impossible for mankind to invent any system which is 100% evil. If there weren't *some* positive qualities to the Third Reich, it never would have gotten the power it had.
The Third Reich offered a sense of pride to a people that had been trampled into the mud during World War I and insulted terribly and treated like mud in the aftermath of that war.
The Third Reich offered a vitality and a sense of hope to a people who had lost such vision.
The Third Reich, or more specifically those people leading and pushing the Third Reich, used horribly wrong methods to gain more power than they otherwise would have had, and they used horribly wrong methods to maintain that power once they had it.
It reminds me somewhat of the Republican Party in the U.S.A. If you look hard enough, you can find some positive qualities in their stated goals of scaling back the federal government, in reversing the moral/ethical decay of modern society, of reducing federal spending, etc. Unfortunately they've hitched their horse to a wagon which has so many negative qualities (belief that morals can come only from
Christian religions seems to be one of them) that it sometimes looks like we're going to have to fight long and hard here to prevent the U.S.A. from becoming yet another Reich.'
end of quote
17th August 05
JD asked me to write up the previous meeting on 'Time' even though i wasn't there - not sure I’m up to it really apart from to say that according to Immanuel Kant, Space and Time are both human abstract concepts - or as i understand it they are human mental concepts that we use to order our world - they have no existence apart from us as human beings. Space and Time were concepts personified in Egyptian wisdom - which rather undermines the idea that the Egyptians were incapable of abstract thought.
Last night we discussed Oxfordshire’s very own 'Blair witch'
i.e. wittenham clumps - a site occupied for millennia and
therefore a happy hunting ground for the odd disembodied Ka spirit. It has several classic ghostly phenomena - the spectral coach and horses - racing down the 'high street' at midnight as a warning of impending catastrophe (I wonder if anyone has seen it recently/). A white lady or goddess who appears near the lake and was exorcised by a whole bunch priests in times of yore. And yes - the clumps were one of the resting places of Bran's head on its journey to London - a spectral raven has been seen hovering over the ditch - and this is said to be the location of buried treasure! In the Green Stone saga, Andy Collins and pals discovers one of the 'lights of knowledge' there (Yesod). Wittenham Clumps is certainly a very spirited place, especially the woods between the clumps and the river.
14th August 05
Bath Omphalos to hear Anton Channing’s thoughtful exploration of six key concepts within alchemy viz: the caduceus, the auroborus, the cosmic egg, the spiral, alchemical trinities, and the hermaphrodite. Nice crowd, including people from Friends of the Witchcraft museum. Things slightly overshadowed by a rather bitchy ad hominem attack in the reviews pages of the Cauldron; aimed at the author of Witcha: a book of cunning, and the OGDOS newsletter (Hem Neter). The target is his article on ‘Cain: the first Satanist’. Informed criticism is no bad thing. Dialectics, is, afterall, a science that emerged within the ancient pagan intellectual tradition. However, it is difficult to answer a critic who is convinced you are wrong but can’t say why.
With The Bull of Ombos now at the printers, and Pan’s Road with a reader, I find myself at a loose end. I plan to start work on the final part of my ‘sethian’ trilogy’ in a few months. In the ‘House of Life’ a book on Çatalhöyük caught my eye. It turned out to be a whole new thread that has led me to a rich vein of Neolithic culture that shares many features with the people of Ombos.
The first 1960s excavation has become a cultural phenomenon. The excavation, restarted in the 1990s, the publication of the new finds, with analysis, is due soon. In the meantime, all sorts of snippets are trickling out via the campaign’s website. The latest, just a few days ago, is the discovery of a beautifully made stamp seal that for the first time, reveals the full identity of one of Çatalhöyük’s most famous, and controversial ‘goddesses’. Turns out to be a bear. A beast is every bit as significant to Neolithic magick as the Red Ochre Bull. Bull and Bear are both ‘Sethian’ animals. The bull was associated in Egyptian astronomy with the constellation known later by the Greeks as Ursa Major – ‘The Great Bear’. At Çatalhöyük the Bear ‘rides’ upon the ‘bull’ – which is an image to conjure with, or maybe meditate upon.
According to the press release, the above-mentioned stamp seals were probably used to stamp designs on skin or clothing. This example shows an animal with its front and hind legs raised upwards. Such figures have been known from Çatalhöyük for some time as plaster reliefs on the walls of houses. An example excavated by James Mellaart is shown in Figure 2. These plaster reliefs have often been interpreted as ‘mother goddess’ figures. But the heads and hands of the plaster relief examples have always been cut off, so it was never possible to say whether the figures were humans or not. But now the stamp seal provides a key. Here the head and the hind paws remain. They clearly show that the figure is an animal, probably a bear. So it is probable that the reliefs with upraised arms and legs are not goddesses but bears. Depicting animals, such as leopards, in houses is common at Çatalhöyük, and so it is not surprising that we should find a bear.
For more information visit:
5th August - Hiroshima Day
The topic of last night's 'talking stick' moot down the pub, was the Pagan response to current world events. Contrary to what G Fukiyama wrote in his book, 'The End of History' - it's not all over but the shouting. The issue he thought a dead one is our relationship to Islam. For me this is as a pagan. Perhaps the answer is to say we're all muslims really - we're certainly not 'unbelievers' - we pagans are definately believers - some even share the concept of AL & LA (see Crowley, Liber Al vel Legis). The same discussion came up in another forum - and what I wrote there may also be of interest:
Seems like there is a difference between ‘Muslims’ considered as a historic/cultural people – - presumably a community of people who emerged in about the 6-7th century. The ups and down of those people, and indeed whether they still exist, is a moot point, that can be separated from ‘Muslim’ considered as a religious ideal. This could mean that a ‘Muslim’ is anyone who regards themselves as ‘one of the peaceful’. Of course, like any religion, there are centres of doctrinal authority and more dogmatic manifestations of the ideal. As in many other religions, Hinduism, Buddhism etc, the body of primary and secondary texts tends to grow through time – but the essence is the mantra like ‘There is no god but Allah’ – ‘there is no God but the principle of divinity itself’ – who could object to that?
At that point, someone remembered a telling parable from the life of the prophet –
Every morning, whenever he went out to teach, he found his doorstep littered with rubbish, thrown there, so it is said, by a lady of another faith. This went on for some time, years maybe. Then one day, there was no rubbish anymore. The prophet asked why and was told the culprit was ill. So, being a wise and kindly soul, he went round to see her, took her a present, helped to nurse her back to health. Why, she asked, did you help me, when I was your enemy? Because, he says, one should always respond to ‘evil’ with kindness’. Now there’s a thing you don’t hear everyday?
1 August 05 'Lammas Day'
That well known pagan chant can be heard in many a newly mown meadow - 'lammas day is the devil's day' - well not quite. Although someone in the Bath omphalos group did suggest that this was the beginning of the 'Sethian' year - an idea that does has something going for it. The myth of John Barleycorn springs to mind - sung beautifully at last night's ritual by Sharron. Who is JB but another form of the ancient god of the harvest - Osiris - here cut down, dismembered and baked into the lammas loaf - all washed down with beer, the product of fermented bread - died with red ochre - the bloodlike 'desert' of the gods?
31 July 05
There is talk of doing even more work on a local urban cemetary to convert it from a vandalised wasteland to a nature reserve. But having begun to read Ken Worpole's Last Landscapes: the architecture of the Cemetery in the West, I see it from a different point of view. He argues that turning this graveyard into another nature reserve is not necessarily the way to ensure a valued future. People value a space like that when they have some of their own relatives and friends buried there. A space full of the names from a hundred years ago has very little meaning to the current generation. In Europe, they have many fine cemeteries, much loved by the local families that use them. In UK our cemeteries are full, and often neglected and vandalised. The difference is that Europeans allow reuse of the same plot after a decent interval, the bones are re-interred in a charnel house. In UK graves are sold in perpetuity. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the way to revitalise our urban cemeteries is to adopt the European model. Otherwise we are forced, if only by reason of cost, to opt for the ecologically damaging option of cremation - and our once loved cemeteries are places of neglect.
A version of this was published in the Oxford Mail 4:8:05)
30 July 05 - 'The means determines the end'
Is it maybe time for us to devise arguments to counter the fundamentalists but from the more tolerant 'pagan' perspective? One lesson might be that using violent means to achieve some sort of 'Islamic' utopia of social justice - will fail - such efforts usually do. Polical violence is a like the djinn or a genii in a bottle - once used, it's difficult to know when to stop.
25th July 05 - 'When Your Guru Goes Gaga'
I forget the exact date of my initiation into amookos but it was some time in the early 1980s. It was at about the same time as I was being expelled from Kenneth Grant's Typhonian OTO - indeed my membership of amookos was a factor in that whole affair but that’s another story. Sometime in the summer of 1989 a fat envelope dropped on the mat. Amongst its enclosures was the following communication from Dadaji, the last guru of the tiny sect of Tantrik magi that I had joined some years earlier. What I read, with sinking heart, gave me an acute sense of déjà vu:
'Guru Purnima, Tuesday, 18th July 89
THE SPLENDOUR OF THE BRIGHT SHINING
(A Corrective to Corruption) etc etc'
Had my guru gone gaga? Either that or he had turned into a total arsehole like every other guru before him. Certainly over the recent years he had suffered a series of strokes the most obvious symptom of which was his current inability to write cursively (you can see examples of this on ION’s website). There were also several glaring errors of fact in the letters he sent. The immediate one concerning Lokanath, was the possible accusation of a treacherous conventional marriage by conventional Christian based ceremony. Lokanath had in fact married in 1978, just after his return from meeting Dadaji for the first time in India. It was no secret. Indeed contrary to what Dadaji says the nath traditon is very diverse and has often included married householders. Perhaps Dadaji resented it at the time but said nothing for the ten years of highly productive work. He finally snapped in 1998, a few years before his death. The full truth will probably never be known.
When i wrote this, circa June 2004, I was in the middle of an exchange of emails with Kapilnath (John Pilskog) the editor of Open Door and the person who ‘benefited’ most from Dadaji’s volte face. Once upon a time I had the ultra leftist type opposition to marriage but nowadays I must say it doesn’t seem that important an issue. But the fact was that Mike had married way back in 1978 and so it was hardly a recent revelation? When Mike returned from his fateful first meeting with Dadaji in the early part of 1978, he resolved to marry his longtime partner Jan, thus putting his affairs in order. I remember he said how lonely he had been during is stay in India, and that obviously influenced his decision. Perhaps when he wrote to Dadaji and told him what he’d done, he had inadvertently infringed one of Dadaji’s own taboos?? Even so the work continued , AMOOKOS was born and began a fitful, painfully slow growth.
Another issue was whether members of AMOOKOS could claim to be Adi-Naths. The problem started with the original charter, written in Dadaji’s own inimicable style. Whatever the ambiguity of the wording, noone claimed to be an Adinatha sannyasi. The documentary evidence shows that Lokanath certainly made no such claim. In fact, he stated that ‘when my dear Gurudev Mahendranath initiated DC in India in Spring 1978, we decided to transform the tradition into an international and cosmopolitan order. This is in line with the Adinatha tradition of old, who always sought true spiritual values and repudiated the artificial.’(Azoth: 13, Spring 1981). Towards the end of his life perhaps Dadaji did regret the ambiguous wording of the original charter, and, as he had done with the Uttara Kaulas, found it easier to pretend the whole thing had never happened.
It was about 1981 that I made contact with Lokanath, after buying a copy of his celebrated occult fanzine Sothis. Lokanath was an influential member of the UK's growing occult scene of the 1970s, and next in line to be head of the typhonian OTO. What I learnt of Dadaji was from his excellent articles in Sothis magazine. In an important sense - Dadaji and amookos were guru each to each.It represented a new covenant which aimed to transcend the past’s inadequate magical organisations. A switch from the dominant ‘masonic’ model to a more freeform ‘rosicrucian’ mode. When Dadaji went gaga he forgot all this. But whatever these are the bare facts. It was never going to be clear cut. Perhaps it is a good thing that there is confusion right from the very beginning
postscript: well now i've received a communication from a Nath from another lineage -
so perhaps the order blown apart by its own guru will come together - watch this space.
24th July 05 - 'Mystical Vampire' in Independent on Sunday.
Mystical Vampire is the new and only biography of Victorian Theosophist, Mabel Collins. The Independent is really proving its name by publishing Gary Lackman's humourous and informative review of Kim Farnell's biographical efforts. Judging by the review, which takes up three quarters of the page. I love some of the bullets - viz: 'Mabel Collins - a writer who knew what upper-class ladies really did with their lap dogs'; 'Theosophists? I take them two at a time' or 'Kim Farnell has done devotees of gaslight a service.' Gary obviously enjoyed reading it?
22 July 05
'The Day of Rams'
This week, the faceless members of a Pagan Federation 'committee' decide to cancel its national conference, because London was getting too dangerous. They say they were prompted in their action by the withdrawal of three speakers and two stall holders. So at a time when the whole country is discovering a new stoicism in the face of concerted terror - one slightly moribund pagan organisation has decided to bottle out. So all that talk of 'never again the burning times' was just talk. They heard on the radio that the muslims want to get the pagans - and that is it - they crumble. I feel deeply ashamed and upset that this organisation - which I've supported for many years - has whimped out. It must the one the final acts of non-leadership in the last declining years of what was once a good idea.
PS: silly syncronicity - at exactly the time the second lot of bombs were due to go off - the plug shorted out in my room - and one of the computers went down. People near the failed bombers said they could smell burning electrical cables. I only mention that because since 7th July the amount of spam I get has dropped off from 400-500 a day to almost none - not sure why - ghost in the machine perhaps??
17th July 05
A book about magick in the review section of the Independent on Sunday - not Harry Potter - but Now That's What I Call Chaos Magick by Julian Vayne and Greg Humphries, from my own firm - Mandrake of Oxford. Reviews of books from the actual practitioners of magick are rare, but becoming more common. They are usually dismissed by review's editors as either 'genre' or just too 'left field' for their gentle readers. So a third of a page in the reviews section makes me feel very happy. And I really like this book - for me it has the final word on the significance of the neo-pagan art of 'chaos magick'. Gary Lachman's informed and intelligent review, traces the roots of Chaos Magick, to Eliphas Levi's 19th century redaction of magick to its real essence - 'will and imagination' or in Gary's own words 'Free your mind - and your spells will follow.' Independent on Sunday (ABC magazine 17:7:5)
15 July 05
Another very hot day in London. Kym and I are there for the launch of Kim Farnell's biography of Mabel Collins - Mystical Vampire. Mabel, a theosophist, despite her interesting life, or should it be lives, has languished without one. Known outside of Theosophical circles as the 'mistress' of Robert Donston Stephenson - one of the suspects in the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' murders of 1888.
Despite the heat, and the aftermath of the July 7th bombings - there was a reasonably showing. The was still much talk of Islamic fundamentalism - which seems to be becoming more rabid than its Christian cousin. IMO it is that whole 'choosen people' thing - that's the heart of the matter. What the world needs now is a bit of pagan style tolerance and pluralism.
10 July, year 05
A very hot day at Kensal Green Cemetary Open Day. Shame that the WW2 veteran's event was cancelled due to security concerns from the police. Now is the time for us to be strong - as the 500K people at the main commemoration in the Mall demonstrated - I guess. This year took the tour of General & Military graves - included the 'common' or 'pauper's plot' also know as the 'guinea' graves - many of the obligatory military funerals were put in this plot! But there again, what does it matter - the whole story of Kensal Green, is really just a variation on the theme of human vanity afterall.
1 July, year 05
The Connaught Hotel, Drury Lane, right next door to Freemasons Hall - and incidentally it is owned by the craft. I was there to do my 'talking head' bit for a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Dennis Wheatley - 'prince of thriller writers'. DW is well known to the community through eight 'black magic' thrillers - the first of which, The Devil Rides Out, written in 1934, is still regarded as a minor modern classic. Despite a massive peak of sales, running at 500K per year in the 1960s, all of DW's books are currently out of print. Book Club Associates plan to reprint half a dozen of the occult books later this year. Despite the total lack of political correctness, DW stills has a nostalgic attraction to the many fans of 1960s 'crap books' - everyone i've told about the show has said they now want to get a copy and revisit those glamourous 'satanists'. My line was, although things have moved on - DW did still hold some sort of mirror to the magic of his times, albeit one that was a very twisted and distorted.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
by Katon Shual & Shanti Devi Nath
First Published in Nuit Isis Magazine Voo I no 7 (circa 1989)
1- Politics and the Occult:
It cannot have escaped many people's notice that this year marks an important anniversary of the most savage war in human history. It is therefore timely to add our own postscript to the history of the period with an examination of the role magick played in this second world war and the subsequent progress, if such it may be termed, of the ideas that did so much to tip humanity into the abyss: Adoph Hitler. Many now want to drawn attention to the connection between extremist politics and the occult. The prime example is the alleged connection between occultism and reactionary, rightwing politics. The usual example was the "mystical" racial myths of the Nazis or the secret manipulation of power wielded by Freemasons. However it can be easily demonstrated that there is no necessary connection between occultism and any particular political stance: right wing or left. Occult or mystical views can constitute a powerful ideological component of any political or social movement. Furthermore a roughly equal number of both progressive and reactionary movements have drawn upon such ideas. Four examples reflect this rough balance: Fascism - Psychological warfare and the New Order Freemasonry and Civic power Voodoo and the world the slaves made Witchcraft and the Land.
However for the purposes of this article we will confirm ourselves to a detailed examination of the first of these and leave it to future issues and perhaps other writers to examine the other three. In the first part we look at the argument that Fascism was some kind of New Age Magical Crusade.
"The modern mythology of Nazi Occultism, is typically sensational and under-researched. A complete ignorance of the primary sources is common to most authors and inaccuracies and wild claims are repeated by each new-comer until an abundant literature exists, based on wholely spurious "facts" concerning the powerful Thule Society/ the Nazi links with the East and Hitler's occult initiation. "(I)
This issue aside, it is additionally sometimes claimed that Fascist ideas were iconoclastic and even a radical project in deconditioning! I hope we will help dispel this dangerous and obscene theory once and for all. For it is indeed an obscenity that the ideas of people so inimical to everything Magick stands for, should still be bandied about by those who should know better, judging by their self proclaimed initiation.
1. Fascism: Psychological Warfare
What follows is necessarily restricted to the study of fascism in Germany. During the Second World War, both the Allied and Axis powers resorted to psychological warfare. NB: occultists were to be found on both sides of the conflict. This included the use of faked horoscopes and prophesies designed to weaken the enemy's resolve. This particular practice began on the German side for the following reason. From about 1920 onwards there had been a remarkable revival of interest in astrology in Germany. Ellic Howe says in his book that a "surprisingly large number of Germans, including many well-educated men and women, began to study astrology in the early 1920s. The reason for this sudden pre-occupation with the hitherto unfashionable, even mildly disreputable area, is not difficult to discover. The aftermath of military defeat, with all its problems and uncertainties, including a runaway currency inflation that was only brought under control at the end of 1923, persuaded many to look to the "stars" for information and portents of better times to come. Before 1914 the comparatively few German astrologers were mostly Theosophists and occultists or both. They regarded astrology as an essentially Hermetic science. However, a large proportion of the newcomers were interested in neither Theosophy, its offspring Anthroposophy nor traditional occultism and preferred to think of astrology as a science in its own right, which given time and the breakdown of traditional prejudice, would be widely accepted as such."(2)
During the Second World War, the Allied Secret Service became convinced that Hitler and his cronies were benefiting from the advice of a professional astrologer. In response to this they employed their own "tame" astrologer, Louis de Wohl, on the basis that knowledge of the kind of advice Hitler was getting, would be a useful piece of intelligence. The Secret Service eventually produced a number of faked horoscopes and predictions that were then infiltrated into Nazi Germany. One example is a faked edition of the prestigious German astrological magazine Zenit, which made certain unfortunate predictions about Hitler.(3)
It is difficult to assess the amount of credence the Nazis actually gave to the astrological and other advice they undoubtedly received. For instance, Hitler's private secretary (1933-45) wrote that "There were popular rumours that Hitler allowed himself to be guided by astrologers before reaching any important decision. I must confess that I never noticed anything of the kind and the subject was never mentioned in conversation. On the contrary, Hitler refuted this by his firmly held conviction that people born on the same day, at the same place and at the same hour, in no way had the same fate. For this point of view he thought that twins provided the best evidence. He always vigorously denied the proposition that the fate of individuals depends upon their stars or constellation. Nevertheless, the prediction made by a Munich fortune-teller (Frau Ebertin) in the very first years of his struggle for power had greatly impressed him. It seemed that here predictions had fulfilled themselves in every respect. But Hitler only spoke very ironically about this coincidence and considered the whole thing as a joke". (4) There are some other reports that show that Hitler's attitude may have changed in the desperate twilight of the Third Reich.(5)
However, the Nazis were undoubtedly aware of the propaganda value of astrological and other predictions. On the eve of Germany's invasion of Poland in August 1939, Dr Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, was shown an interpretation of one of the prophecies of Nostradame. It "read":
"Seven times you will see the British nation change, dyed in blood for two hundred and ninety years. Not at all free through German support, Aries fears for the protectorate of Poland".(6)The interpretation offered said that the seventh of the changes would occur in 1939 - a critical state of affairs in Poland at the same time as Britain faces a great crisis connected with Germany. Goebbels grasped immediately the possibilities for propaganda inherent in prophesies such as these and he resolved to obtain the services of an expert in order to "extract" further prophecies concerning Britain.
The man he got hold of was none other than Karl E Kraft, who as it happened had already been working in a department of Himmler's Reichssich-erheitshauptamf (RSHA) or Intelligence service, for some months. Kraft was just about the most skilled astrologer in Germany at that time, as well as an expert on Nostradame. In October 1939 he miraculously predicted an assassination attempt on Hitler's life - it was this rather dangerous prediction that first brought him to the Nazis' attention. Most of the professional bodies of astrology had been thoroughly Nazified by about 1934. Ie, Jews expelled and Nazis moved into leading positions. This would not be enough to "protect" them from Government oppression and astrology and all other occult activity were completely banned in 1941. Kraft was an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler and willingly offered his services to the RSHA. He soon produced a new edition of the Prophecies of Nostradame, although it never got more than limited circulation. The Nazis were very intolerant of the circulation of rumours other than their own. The fact is that Kraft really believed in his techniques and failed to be as pliant in the production of myths as the RSHA demanded. He was placed in protective custody in 1941 and employed in the calculation of horoscopes of various Allied notables, horoscopes destined for propaganda purposes. He died of the effects of typhus en route to Buchenwald concentration camp on January 20th 1945.
Few professional astrologers or known occultists escaped his fate. Thousands were rounded-up after the "defection" of Rudolf Hess in May 1941. However, for every astrologer or occultist arrested, dozens escaped unscathed and continued an underground interest in Hitler's destiny.
2. Fascism Iconoclasm?
Was fascism about the smashing of idols? Did it signify a new and revolutionary political force? Many apologists for fascism claim that it was. Including Hitler himself, of course: "Die National-sozialistische Revolution ist als revolutionaerer Machmassiger Vorgang abgeschlossen!...Das neruose Zeitalter des 19. Jahrhunderts hat bei uns endgultig seinen Abschluss gefunden" implies a two-fold attack on the Communists, claiming that National Socialism was in fact revolutionary in its aims and also was the inevitable culmination of the events of the nineteenth century.
In view of our present knowledge of the horrors of the Nazi holocaust, it seems difficult to understand any reason why this supposedly "revolutionary" force should appeal. Perhaps one reason could be a feeling of disillusionment with liberal democracy, parliamentary committees and majority votes, a sharing of the anti-intellectual and anti-bourgeois tone of Mein Kampf, a belief that with Bismarck, decisions should be made "not by majority votes in national assemblies but by blood and iron". But it can be shown that Hitler's "national socialism" can hardly be seen as a revolutionary and certainly not a desirable alternative.
For one thing, it is difficult to see much revolution taking place, despite the Nazi rhetoric. In theory a revolution should change the fundamental structure of the society. The Nazis certainly made grand gestures, such as the Winterhiife, the Hitler Jugend for boys of all backgrounds and the much-vaunted "peoples' car" (Volkswagen). But did it really herald a decrease in the power of the current ruling classes? The top tax rate increased by a massive 0.8% to 38.2% (even less than the top rate under Thatcher) under the Nazis, although the income of the wealthiest increased by 148% from 1933-9. The concentration of capital in 1939 was also greater than in 1933, and there was more inequality in income and property. The rich East Elbe estates were still in the hands of the gentry and the army still under the command of generals whose names began with the German nobility title "von". As for being a workers' movement, organised labour under the Nazis became a thing of the past; in 1933 the Trades Unions were dissolved and replaced by the Labour Front, a Nazi organisation. Finally, the fate of women in Nazi Germany is not exactly desirable. Marriage loan schemes, pressure to have increasingly large numbers of children while Eva-Braun like "maidens" are scarcely appealing as role models.
It is obvious that the Nazi revolutionary rhetoric is no more sincere than Hitler's other propaganda: for instance his claim in 1930 that he had nothing against "good Jews". Alongside this is the sheer banality of everyday life in the Third Reich. Germany's most gifted writers - Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Bertholt Brecht - exiled abroad, sexual repression and the anti-feminist tone of the Nazi rule. Fascism can hardly be called iconoclastic.
3,The New Order Cultus
One of the best selling books of the sixties alleges that the second World War was an ideological struggle between Humanism and Magick. This book: Pauwels and Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians, has recently been reprinted and there are several clones including Francis King's Satan and. the Swastika; Gerald Suster, Hitler and the Age of Horus. There is even a genre of fiction, assuming that the former books are intended as non-fiction, beginning with for example Dennis Wheatley's They Used Dark Forces.
The story goes that the top Nazi leaders were all members of a secret esoteric group called the Thule Society. The myth of Thule is very much a German equivalent of the Atlantis myth. The Society was supposed to have been founded sometime in the early decades of the twentieth century by Hitler's mentor Dietrich Eckardt. It included amongst its members the seven founder-members of the NSDAP or Nazi Party. Karl Haushofer was its Grand Master and chose the swastika symbol for the flag.
The "unknown superiors" of the Thule Society are supposedly the secret directors of the Third Reich. However this assertion and other details are entirely fallacious. The Thule Society was dissolved around 1925 when support had dwindled. (7) Nevertheless, there are several characteristics of the Nazi regime that can make it appear like a parody of a "holy" order.
Take, for instance, the Nazi flag. This was designed by Hitler himself. In his book Mem Kampf he devotes a whole chapter to a discussion of its symbolism. Hitler's unconscious capacity for self-parody is fully revealed in this book along with a lot else. A serious book it is not, although subsequent events show how disastrous it can be to underestimate the possibility of a cosmic joke. Concerning the design of the Nazi flag, he says that "As National Socialists we see our programme in our flag. In Red we see the social idea of the movement, in White the nationalist idea, in the Swastika, the mission of the struggle for victory of the Aryan man, and by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has and always will be anti-Semitic"'.(8)
It must be fairly common knowledge that the "swastika" is an ancient Indian religious symbol, probably solar in significance. The term "swastika" is in fact a Sanskrit word from swasti meaning success. It is also a reference to the distillation of the divine psychotropic drug soma, a key component of the religion of the Vedic Aryans. In Indian iconography this mystic hooked cross usually has its hooks bent around to the left so that the whole emblem rotates in a clockwise direction, the direction of the earth's rotation. Thus early Buddhist stupa temples were laid out on such a swastika ground plan. Significantly the Nazi's iconographers reversed the usual direction so that it rotates anti-clockwise, the direction of the Hermetic cross, as drawn by members of the Golden Dawn.(9) Astrologers have long adopted the convention of charting their calculation "back to front" as it were. Thus the eastern horizon appears on the right-hand side of the page and the western on the right. If one bears in mind the comments I made earlier about the popularity of astrology in Germany from the 1920s on, then the reason for the inversion is manifest and not as sinister as it appears. Whatever inherent meaning once possessed by this symbol, the Nazis managed to destroy it as a benign symbol. Rudyard Kipling had it removed from the covers of his books of Indian stories, which it had previously graced. Kipling was of course a pacifist, his jingoism destroyed by the death of a beloved son in the First world war.
Hitler does not mention where he derived the swastika symbol, but it was probably from the principal "philosopher" of the Nazi party - Alfred Rosenberg. Rosenberg's eight-hundred page epic The Myth of the Twentieth Century was only outsold by Hitler's Mein Kampf and it was the main source of the Nazis' absurd racial theories. This book has a large section dealing with Hindu/ Aryan history. In this Rosenberg attributes the foundation of the civilization of ancient India, with its caste system to Aryans who flowed over the mountains from the northwest. They contrasted their own light complexion with those of their dark-brown subject races. These Aryans, so he says, created the philosophy of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Eventually, so the theory goes, race mixture destroyed the basis of their doctrine and Aryan mysticism was corrupted by systems of magic and sacrifice. Thus the swastika on the Nazi flag was a symbol of racial purity and also an evocation of their supposed racial spirit.
An examination of the Nazi "cult" would be incomplete without some mention of the SS or Defence Staff (Schutz Staff). They were molded by Heinrich Himmler into a grotesque parody of medieval Teutonic knighthood. They were selected on rigorous "racial" and physical grounds and wore special uniforms. The SS badge was soon metamorphosed into a double lightening flash in imitation of ancient runic characters: Sig Sig: The Sun/Victory. One writer describes their initiation as:
"a mystic rigmarole of his "sworn fellowship" before counterfeit bones of King Henry I, founder of medieval German power in the East. All this taking place at midnight in the crypt of a local cathedral''(10)
All the pomp and circumstances cannot hide the fact that the SS were little more than concentration camp guards. The first camps were organized in 1933, almost immediately after the Nazis came to power. Their first inmates were communists or people labeled as communists. Himmler's deputy, Heydich, who was no mystic "but a ruthless careerist" took over the administration of them. One bizarre feature they retained throughout was the almost "masonic" system of prisoners' badges, later extended outside the camps by Heydich. The eighteen or so categories of prisoners were identified by a complicated system of interlocking triangles of various colours - Yellow for Jewish prisoners. Red for political. Pink for homosexuals, brown for gypsies, and Mauve for Jehova's Witnesses etc.
The relationship between the Third Reich and the Occult emerges from this as something rather superficial. The Nazis were no more magical than the clients of a successful advertising agency. It is surely telling that General J F C Fuller, one time disciple of Aleister Crowley. as well expert on Tank warfare, eventually rejected Hitler's brand of mystical blitzkrieg. Torn between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, his patriotism eventually got the better of him.
(C) Mandrake of Oxford
(1) N Goodrich CIark, The Occult Roots of Fascism, (Aquarian Press ) pp 225.
(2) Ellic Howe, Astrology and Psychological Warfare during World War II (Rider 1972) page 21.
(3) E. Howe op cit
(4) H Trevor Roper, Hitler's Table Talk 1941-44, (1953) page 76
(5) H Trevor -Roper, The Last Days of Hitler
(6) The Prophesies of Nostradamus. III.57. Translated by Cheetam
(7) Goodriche Clarke, op cit page 221.
(8) As quoted by Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (Condor 1972).
(9) RG Torrens, The Secret Rituals of the Golden Dawn.
(10) Eugen Kogen, The Theory and Practice of Hell. (Secker and Warberg 1950) page 17.
Monday, June 27, 2005
We drove on past the police road barricades towards Stonehenge - just outside Shrewton, the road was totally closed (shades of paranoia) - we parked up near a traveller van, to study the map for another route - screams and shouts from within the van - so we moved off quickly - the road twisting and turning, then it cleared and we were there.
A few hours R&R, then out for walkabout - 2am - plenty of time till dawn - we went through yet another police checkpoint - before being let onto the path they wanted us to follow, straight down to the henge. But we had other plans - out of sight we wheeled left down a footpath, that leads across fields and roads, until it comes to the end of the mysterious 'cursus', as it pokes its nose through the Fargo plantation. First we must cross an overgrown style - the other side of which is parked a minibus full of police! They look at us but move very slowly in our direction - all is silence - we keep walking - and before the police can get their act together, we are across the road, over a second style and disappearing into
the darkness. Paul is muttering a quiet prayer to keep us safe - but somehow I know we are meant to get through.
And indeed, after much scrambling about in the pitch black of the woods - barbwire and brambles - - hunting for the path - we stumble out under the stars. I mention this - because is you ever do come along to one of these ad hoc quests - you are quite likely to get lost. So back to the cursus - which we had completely to ourselves - the stars were shining above us - not the clearest of nights but good enough. We draw down the plough - to remember the hidden god - before meandering down in the peaceful deserted plain - back to the floodlite henge - whose generous curves, are more than able to absorb upwards of 21K people.
We did our little ritual at the little 'fairy tree', much loved during the free festivals of the 1980s. But now we have to hide again - as an official looking pickup comes up the trail - perhaps the police radioed ahead and they are looking for us - if so - can't think why?? But we gave them the slip in the darkness - blending back into the crowds just at the final checkpoint - then into the melee of the henge - to greet Ra, Seth's father, on his birthday. 'More horns' - that was my thought as I wind my horn to the most magnificent solstice dawn - among all those people - there were only two of us playing - music is a most acceptable offering to Ra at dawn - and works well with the festival atmosphere - so hope to see a few more from this list next time?
love and do what you will
PS: next chance for a meet is at the Omphalos moot in July and September -
if you're holidaying in bath area why not try to come along
- see mandrake speaks for details.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Talking still of fanzines - at the other end of the scale - is Oracle Occult Magazine - a coated A4 very like Chaos International, but with a catholic range of material - aiming to bridge the gap between magick and witchcraft. Articles are well written ranging from Archaic Witchcraft, Voodoo, to Freemasonry - all interspersed with some intelligent and detailed reviews - as well as more occultural stuff such as Steven Ashe's article on Picasso. So all in all, a welcome addition - and worth supporting at £3.50 (£21 for first six issues - which it is planned to issue annually - which might be a bit optimistic.)
For details of both these publications visit:www.oracleoccult.com (actually Mandrake.uk.net also has some stock) andwww.strangeattractor.co.uk
Oh yes while I'm at it - have a another very witchy magazine called Dragonswood - which although very much in the Pentacle/Pagan Dawn type genre has a few surprises and is edited by some very cool dudes from Peterborough - worthy of support from www.dragonswood.org.uk
Smallest of the lot - but still packing a punch is the latest edition of Hem Neter - newsletter of the Oxford Golden Dawn Occult Society - available for a modest £2 from firstname.lastname@example.org (paypal available)
Well that's your holiday reading sorted - have fun - mogg
Sunday, June 12, 2005
But I refuse to fault-judge Professor Hutton’s book given that the overall thrust is so provocative in the best possible sense. There were several themes that particularly stuck in my mind.
Firstly the positive effect of the transference of pagan witchcraft to USA from whence it returned politically refreshed. It’s so easy for the little Englander view of witchcraft to overshadow the novel contributions of our American friends. Hutton shines the spotlight on the latent conservatism of the UK magical world (for an earlier expose see my own book Sexual Magick.) I too remember as a breath of fresh air the words coming from American witch poets such as Robin Morgan. In the 1980s I helped form a group inspired by Starhawk’s groundbreaking Spiral dance. It was then by no means taken for granted that other pagans would share our anti the bomb agenda. The conversion of modern pagans and magicians to these causes was something that had to be worked for – via organisations such as Pagans Against Nukes, the Greenham Women and the Stonehenge free festival, all causes strangely absent from the lips of Professor Hutton’s informants.
Many felt that Tanya Luhrmann’s infamous study of the uk magical scene was itself flawed by its restriction to a very narrow and conservative bunch of magicos, as well as her outright refusal to meet with any representatives of occultism’s new wave. Many linked this with ‘her apparent dismissal of their practices as founded on delusion. Perhaps that’s unfair but then as Ronald points out ‘The feeling of the latter were to some extent enhanced by Luhrmann’s own return to United States as soon as her project was complete, her entry into the academic profession assured and her subsequent lack of any obvious interest in Paganism or magic. (Hutton 1999: 376) It is a feature of the book that Hutton is as hard on fellow academics as he is sympathetic to the magical practitioner.
Professor Hutton levels some very telling criticism of the internecine strife that has been a feature pagan witchcraft since its very beginning. The often-termed ‘bitchcraft’ hardly waned, even when during the 1980s ‘satanic child abuse panic’ when the stakes were very high indeed. Whilst not a complete stranger to wiccan circles, I was at the time firmly within the magical fold. I remember feeling much got at by the intemperate outbursts from wiccans, ‘great and good’. They seemed to be fuelling the press views witch hunt against ‘black’ practitioners. Ronald’s book has at least helped me to get that in perspective. These attacks were not aimed at occultists but at other rival wiccan priests and priestesses! Whether the press saw it that way is another story. In Oxford a local Christian wannabee attempted to get our speaker meetings banned from council property and the ‘oh so liberal’ Bishop of Oxford (still in post), stopped our path working group using the local community centre.
Personally I wonder whether the abusive and bitchy nature of many covens is perhaps linked to the unhealthy influence of the fourth way philosophy of Gurdjieff or indeed the worst excesses of some of Aleister Crowley’s training regimes?
There is a common misconception that Professor Hutton has somehow undermined the basis of pagan witchcraft. I didn’t really get that impression, if anything he has cleared a space in which it can thrive. If anything his work reminds me of the kind of approach taken by the late Andrew Chumbley, whose credentials are anything but undermined by this book. I once asked Andrew about all these claims to a lineage older than the 1940s emergence of Wicca and he replied that although initiated by traditional witches with a long pedigree they didn’t actually know very much. It was still down to him and his colleagues to reinvent or flesh out the tradition.
Likewise on the topic of the goddess, the learned professor’s position is really a form of enlightened agnosticism –
‘The effect [of the ‘Murrayite’ fall from grace] upon professional pre-historians was to make most return, quietly and without controversy to that careful agnosticism as to the nature of the ancient religion which most has preserved since the 1940s. There had been no disproof of the veneration of a Great Goddess, only a demonstration that the evidence concerned admitted of alternative explanations.’ (Hutton: 1999: 282)
Which does not mean that goddesses were not worshipped in prehistoric times or that none of them achieved to greatness. For example Isis; who may not be a prehistoric goddess but is certainly the first to go global. Ronald Hutton’s book is a reminder that a god or goddess wants you to encounter them as they truly are and not as a mere cipher with which to work out your frustration or bitterness about the way your life is going just now.