Archives For Magick

Yesterday, on Facebook, Holly Allender Kraig announced that her husband, author and magician Donald Michael Kraig, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are asking for prayers and magical assistance to help get rid of the cancer.

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I was able to contact Holly Kraig directly, and she sent this statement for Wild Hunt readers.

“Don was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in late 2013. It’s a diagnosis, not a death sentence. It is possible to put this into remission. That is the goal, remission. Don is a fighter and is adamant that beating this is already a done deal. I stand beside him as his wife and best friend to help ease him through the battle he’s facing. The community support is amazing. I know he will be healed through all the love, support and healing energies coming his way. This is a done deal!”

For those unfamiliar with Donald Michael Kraig, he is a very influential author and thinker in the realms of ritual magic(k), magical theory, and related practices. Kraig is perhaps best known for Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts, which was dubbed a “modern-day classic” by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. Other recent works include a remembrance of author Scott Cunningham, and an occult-themed thriller novelHe’s also an acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide.

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig

Donald Michael Kraig is not only a noted author and thinker, he’s also a charming, funny, and supportive individual. When I was invited to my very first festival as a newly minted “Big Name Pagan” I was very nervous, and felt completely out of my depth. My first talk during that weekend was attended by, like, 4 people, and very few people there had heard of me. Luckily, Don was there, and was very supportive. He attended my second talk (which was better attended) and afterwards praised my performance, saying I was a natural at public speaking. Now, whether this was true is up to debate, but perhaps he helped make it true by saying it to me, reminding me that I had done the work to be invited there, and that I did have something to contribute (magick!).

Just as Don had helped me, so he has helped many other people in his life, which is as good an argument for extending his remarkable life as any (that, and the amazing stories of his rock-n-roll past). Also, to be frank, the Pagan community can’t bear to lose a wit of his caliber. So, whatever your practice, belief structure, or method, let’s get in gear to help beat this cancer. Because cancer sucks, and I want to buy Donald Michael Kraig a drink at PantheaCon.

[The following is a guest post by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender person, and one of the founding members of the Ekklesía Antínoou–a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and related deities and divine figures–as well as a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a practicing Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the traditions of gentlidecht and filidecht, as well as Romano-British, Welsh, and Gaulish deity devotions. Lupus is also dedicated to several land spirits around the area of North Puget Sound and its islands.]

Many of our modern Pagan festivals are titled for their implied or specific themes: a goddess-focus is suggested by PantheaCon; TheurgiCon deals with theurgy and hermeticism and the traditions which derive from these; Pagan Spirit Gathering is apt to be understood in all the variety of ways which the first two words of its title can imply. But, a gathering that draws a crowd of occultists, magicians, hermeticists, alchemists, gnostics, and quite a few Pagans (whether they are one or more of those things additionally) as well, is Seattle’s Esoteric Book Conference. As Pagans are said not to be “people of the book, but people of the library,” this conference has a great deal to offer many modern Pagans indeed. The diverse Seattle occult, alternative religious, and Pagan scene’s members are the major attendees of the event, though an increasingly national and international crowd is also attending as the conference has progressed.

2013-EBC-Sale2013 saw the fifth Esoteric Book Conference take place again in mid-September at Seattle Center. I have attended them from the beginning, and presented on a panel about modern occult publishing at the first conference in 2009, and likewise presented a session in 2012 on the Ekklesía Antínoou Serpent Path. I hope to make yearly attendance at the conference a reality for the foreseeable future, as it has always proven to be informative, inspiring, a great temptation towards bankruptcy with the beautiful books (and art of various sorts) on offer at the exhibit hall and art show, and a chance to not only increase communal contacts and friendships, but to maintain them with the many individuals and groups I already know in this area that I often don’t get to see at other times of the year.

I cannot possibly do justice to all of the nine presentations that occurred this year in a summary, so I will simply discuss a few highlights for me personally that I feel qualified enough to comment upon. Those who I do not discuss below did excellent presentations, and I suggest you consult the conference website for fuller details of those presentations and the fascinating and accomplished biographies of the presenters as well.

Saturday’s sessions opened with one of the EBC’s hosts and its ever-resourceful technical coordinator, Joshua Madara, who was also described as the “Tony Stark of modern occultism,” with a presentation on “Interactive Media for Occult Book Makers.” This one likely would get the award for “Most Shiny” session, as the various book arts, both throughout history and of more recent vintage, which were shown in his slides were awe-inducing, as well as “aaah!”-inducing. The use of transparencies, pop-up art and models, computer-enhanced books with sound capabilities, and a huge variety of other possibilities was highlighted and presented as a kind of challenge to the audience, and a spur to even greater creativity with future occult-specific creations. Madara asked us to be more child-like and fun in our approach to these matters, and memorably noted (paraphrasing Arthur C. Clarke) that “Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play.”

At least one of the sessions at each EBC is dedicated to a biography of an important occultist, artist, or scholar, and this year, Dr. Aaron Cheak presented on René Schwaller de Lubicz in a session entitled “The Call of Fire.” Schwaller was a multiply-talented, interested, and connected individual in literary, artistic, esoteric, and academic circles in the early-twentieth century, and was part of the Parisian alchemical revival, as well as a practicing Hermeticist. He spent fifteen years in Egypt studying the temples of Luxor in particular, and while he has not always found a good reception amongst Egyptologists, he (along with his wife Isha, who was with him in Egypt) is still the luminary of Egyptosophists, and many of his books on these subjects are available in English translation from Inner Traditions. He had theories on art that included elemental correlations with colors and number, both of which have alchemical implications that would be of great interest to a large number of modern Pagans.

Masthead_OP

An extremely enticing look at a future publication by Ouroboros Press (the occult publishing company founded by one of the Esoteric Book Conference’s organizers, William Kiesel) was provided by Nick Koss’ presentation, “Use of Cryptography in Magical Books: Deciphering the Triangular Book of St. Germain.” Koss’ background in linguistics, mathematics, and computer sciences aided him in being able to decipher the two Getty collection manuscripts, Hogart 209 and 210, which are triangular books written almost entirely in a cipher. Koss was able to decode the entire manuscript, which was an encrypted 18th century French magical ritual designed to extend one’s life, gain wealth, and learn ancient secrets. As these were all things attributed to the authority for the manuscript, the Count of St. Germain (about whom Voltaire is misquoted as having said that he “lived forever and knew everything,” but in reality he said something more like “he knows everything but never shuts up”!), it seems likely that the text for the ritual either did come from him, or from his general circle of associates.

Cvr_IsisMagic_1500x0000_RGB_v2The “hangover session” on Sunday morning went to M. Isidora Forrest, and this particular presentation, “Isis: Goddess of Magic, Patroness of Magicians,” is the one most likely to have resonated with the broader Pagan and polytheist audience. Her presentation discussed magic in the general as well as specifically Egyptian contexts, and emphasized that magic and religion were essentially inseparable concepts in Egyptian culture and language. While the presentation was focused on Isis, prominent also was Heka, the Egyptian god of magic, who is not merely a deified abstraction, but instead is an active and personified being with whom one should cultivate a relationship if one wishes to do effective magic at all. Indeed, in one of the Egyptian cosmologies, Re-Atum’s first creation is the god Heka, by whom all else in the universe is created. Isidora’s presentation ranged widely, and ended up spending extended time on the myth of Isis’ gaining of supreme magical power by extorting Re’s secret name, but also dealt with one of my favorite stories (and one important for Antinous-related lore as well!), Lukian of Samosata’s final tale in the Philopseudes, which is the first literary version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” tale, familiar from Goethe, Paul Dukas’ musical piece, and Disney’s Fantasia film. Isidora also launched the expanded tenth-anniversary edition of her magnum opus, Isis Magic: Cultivating a Relationship With the Goddess of 10,000 Names, which I’m looking forward to digging into soon!

The Esoteric Book Conference also usually features someone notable from the local esoteric community each year, whether it is Brandy Williams in 2009, Denny Sargent/Aion 131 in 2010, or Erynn Rowan Laurie last year. This year, the “local act” was a double act, with Kate Merriweather Lynch (who was also the conference’s volunteer coordinator and registration goddess, in addition to having some of her art on display!) and Aron D. Tarbuck, who presented a session on “Comics as Grimoires.” The “usual suspects” like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman were all addressed, though of particular focus was not Moore’s Promethea and the like, but instead Swamp Thing, and how it changed the comics medium forever by ignoring the Comics Code Authority and launching DC’s imprint Vertigo. The conversation and questions after their presentation were the most lively of the entire conference, and were punctuated by rolls of thunder in the distance as well! Also, of potential interest to some modern polytheists who may be reading this and were involved in the recent “superheroes as deities” debates, was their mention of the Shinto Shrine in Japan that is dedicated to Manga characters.

It would be hard to honestly suggest that the Esoteric Book Conference has “something for everyone,” since the nature of the subject and the specific topics of the various sessions themselves are far more limited in appeal than what might be on offer at other events. However, for those who love books–not only for their content, but for their beauty as objects and as instantiations of human craft and skill in conjunction with divine and spiritual inspiration; or, as Robert Ansell put it at the first EBC in 2009, as physical expressions of the meeting between Chronos (Time) and Kairos (Opportunity)–the middle weekend in September in Seattle should be a time set aside to share your love of books with those members of your wider interconnected communities whose devotion to the book makers’ arts equals your own.

Next year in Seattle…!

If you are a Pagan or occult practitioner of a certain age, the word “Vertigo” brings up certain associations. A speciality line of comic books launched by DC Comics in 1993, Vertigo comics focused heavily on mythic, occult, psychedelic, and magical themes, introducing American audiences to rising talents like Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Dave McKean. Inspired by the earlier 1980s work of writers like Alan Moore and Jamie Delano, Vertigo created a new niche of “adult” comics that drew many people, myself included, back to reading comic books. I distinctly remember happening upon a write-up of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” in The Monthly Aspectarian of all places, which led me back to a comic book store for the first time in years. For me, and for many of my peers, Vertigo gave a needed dose of youth, experimentation, and anarchic cool to a Pagan/magical subculture that was still trying to adjust to a sudden boom in popularity. A lot of attention is paid The Craft and Charmed as things that brought young people to Paganism in the 1990s, but for a certain segment of Generation X, Vertigo was the pop-culture doorway of choice (they even released a tarot deck).

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Now, 20 years later, and after many were questioning if the line’s time was over, DC Comics has announced six new Vertigo titles debuting this Fall, headlined by a new Neil Gaiman-penned Sandman story.

“Superheroes are the lifeblood of the comic book industry and have proved to be a big draw at the box office. But Vertigo, whose slate includes fantasy, horror and speculative fiction outside of the publisher’s mainstream lineup, has had difficulty building an audience and developing new properties. DC is hoping to change Vertigo’s fortune this fall with six new series premiering from October to December. The most anticipated project, “The Sandman: Overture,” a mini-series by Neil Gaiman, will begin on Oct. 30.”

witchinghour_NYTMost importantly for readers here, is that the bulk of the six new titles have mythic, Pagan, and occult themes. Most notably: “Hinterkind,” “Coffin Hill,” and the anthology one-shot “The Witching Hour.”

  • HINTERKIND – Decades after “The Blight” all but wiped out the human race, Mother Nature is taking back what’s hers and she’s not alone … all the creatures of myth and legend have returned and they’re not happy. After her grandfather disappears, Prosper Monday must leave the security and seclusion of her Central Park village to venture into the wilds to find him, unaware of how much the world has changed. An epic fantasy adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, HINTERKIND is written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Francesco Trifogli, and debuts this October.
  • COFFIN HILL – When she was 15, Eve Coffin summoned a darkness that had been buried since the Salem Witch Trials. Now Eve’s back to harness the evil that destroyed her friends and is slowly taking over the sleepy town of Coffin Hill. This is a series full of magic, madness and murder via a twisted family of New Englanders. Arriving in stores this October, COFFIN HILL combines the talents of artist Inaki Miranda (FAIREST: THE HIDDEN KINGDOM) with writer Caitlin Kittredge, a young, dark fantasy author whose writing includes the Nocturne City, the Black London, and the Iron Codex series of novels – which include the recently published titles Dark Days and The Mirrored Shard.
  • THE WITCHING HOUR – Just in time for Halloween, this anthology-style one-shot collects short stories exploring witchcraft written and drawn by some of the most talented veterans and newcomers in the business – including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Cliff Chiang, Lauren Beukes, Emily Carroll, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus, Tula Lotay and many more.
Sandman art by JH Williams III

Sandman art by JH Williams III

However, what will most likely draw most of us back to the shops (or the comiXology app I suppose) will be “The Sandman: Overture,” written by the now very famous Neil Gaiman, and drawn by the hugely talented J.H. Williams III, who created the amazing art for Alan Moore’s “Promethea.”

“The most peculiar thing for me about returning to ‘Sandman’ is how familiar it all feels,” Mr. Gaiman said. What is new, however, is the level of attention. “When I was writing ‘Sandman’ from 1987 to 1996, I never had the feeling at any point that approximately 50 million people were looking over my shoulder scrutinizing ever word.” (Mr. Gaiman has about two million followers on Twitter.)

For the six-issue “The Sandman: Overture,” Mr. Gaiman has been paired with J.H. Williams III, an illustrator known for his moody imagery and innovative page layouts. “They are the most beautiful pages I have ever seen in periodical comics,” Mr. Gaiman said. “I ask him to do the impossible, and he gives me back more than I asked for.”

This big new push for Vertigo comes at a time when comic book super-heroes are seen by many as blockbuster movie (and television) properties, and the innovation, strangeness, darkness, and fantasy tropes of Vertigo has been pushed to the margins. Often finding homes at smaller publishers who specialize in giving creators more control and ownership (Brian K. Vaughan’s excellent “Saga” being one notable example). However, perhaps with the new rise of adult-oriented fantasy breaking big with HBO cable television shows like “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood,” and the forthcoming Neil Gaiman-created “American Gods” series, DC Comics realizes that developing and nurturing dark, strange, and mythic fantasy might be good for their bottom line after all.

With this return of fantasy, of mythic beings and occult themes, of The Sandman himself, will it also oversee an influx of new fans? Or is this simply DC catering to a maturing fan-base? Whatever the impetus, I look forward to this new wave of Vertigo comics, and hope they can live up to that line’s past great heights.

The (in)famous occultist Aleister Crowley once explained his theory on magic, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will,” by noting that the act of writing a book was a magic(k)al act.

“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take “magickal weapons”, pen, ink, and paper; I write “incantations” — these sentences — in the “magickal language” ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.”

This has always been the definition of magic I’ve preferred when explaining its practice within modern Pagan religions to the uninitiated. These are exercises of our Will, we see our actions in this world as magical acts that create changes around us. For that reason I’ve often seen the activism of someone like Starhawk, as unified with her magical practice, something she asserts often in her writings. So it has been fascinating for me to witness the activities of my friend Alley Valkyrie here in Eugene, Oregon.

Alley is a Feri initiate and Witch who runs a small local gift and clothing business in town called Practical Rabbit, and has become a central activist regarding how the homeless are treated in Eugene, Oregon. This solidarity with the homeless rose to new levels when she became involved in the local Occupy movement a year ago, and continued as Occupy Eugene splintered into smaller, more focused, organizations, with the battles over Eugene’s controversial “exclusion zone.”

Jean Stacey said police use the law to harass and exclude homeless people from downtown. “We are ruining people’s lives,” she said. Alley Valkyrie said the ordinance provides the perception that downtown is safer. “Who are we as a people?” Valkyrie said. “Do we exclude? Do we really think it works or do we bow down to perception?”

Now, Alley is a part of SLEEPS which aims to “establish and maintain safe, legally entitled, emergency places to sleep for those who are currently unhoused and want or need such a place.” In Eugene, it is illegal camp on public property, and the homeless in Eugene are often cited for carrying camping equipment. As a result, Eugene’s homeless often sleep in isolated spots and are exposed to violence and environmental hazards. To draw attention to this issue a coalition of homeless and housed activists have been publicly camping at targeted public spots, including the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, where Valkyrie was recently arrested after defying an order to shut down and vacate the space.

A Wiccan altar is erected at the SLEEPS camp in Eugene, Oregon.

A Wiccan altar is erected at the SLEEPS camp in Eugene, Oregon.

“Immediately after Valkyrie was arrested Thursday, the protest group that had camped outside the county courthouse earlier in the week returned to the Federal Building property and pitched about a dozen tents there.”

Alley Valkyrie holds up the front-page story of her arrest.

Alley Valkyrie holds up the front-page story of her arrest.

I recently sat down with Alley Valkyrie to talk to her about SLEEPS, working with the homeless, and the practice of activism as a form of magic.

I’m hoping to have a transcript of the interview up soon. In the meantime, you can follow the exploits of SLEEPS at their Facebook page, or their official website.

Obviously not everyone will want to become an activist in solidarity with the homeless, but I think Alley’s experience highlights how magical practice unifies with the choices we make in our lives, and brings a sense of sacred purpose to what we do. Magic is just as much about what we do, as what we believe or ritually practice. With magic we become increasingly aware of the ripples we create with the choices we make, and act accordingly, with intent in all things. You may not want to be arrested as a form of magic, but every magical act should be weighed as seriously.

For some time now there’s been a current of occult and magic(k)al elements within the arts, most notably in the worlds of fashion and fine art. An especially popular theme within this current today are the works of magician Aleister Crowley, most likely due to the influence of experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who introduced several famous actors and musicians to Crowley’s philosophies and practices. I mention Anger specifically, because a recent ritual performance of a Crowley working at L&M Arts in Los Angeles stems directly from his influence, involving Anger collaborator Brian Butler. Why is this of note? Because Butler was joined (and almost joined) by some rather famous names.

Noot Seear at The Bartzebel Working.

Noot Seear at The Bartzebel Working

“Tuesday night, artist/musician Brian Butler assisted by Twilight: New Moon actress Noot Seear, and actor Henry Hopper [son of Dennis Hopper] was supposed to  invoke Bartzabel, the forceful spirit of Mars into to the body of actor/hipster/James Franco at L&M Gallery to celebrate “For The Martian Chronicles” exhibit, honoring the work of sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. But UPDATE: JAMES FRANCO MISSED HIS FLIGHT AND THERE WAS AN UNANNOUNCED STAND-IN, ACCORDING TO COMMENTS AFTER THIS WENT TO PRESSWe have revised this post to reflect this. According to L&M Gallery, Material Basis was performed by Christopher Emerson.”

I’ll leave commentary on the ritual itself to Lisa Derrick, who noted that “despite the act of invoking and drawing a magical circle, at the end of the ritual, there was no closing or banishing–kinda like sterilizing a jar, making jam, then leaving it unsealed in a toilet.” What I’m more interested in are the larger cultural questions this poses. Is this just a closed cul-de-sac of the hipster famous (and semi-famous) slumming it with robes and a bit of Thelema to bring a bit of excitement to their lives (and the LA gallery scene), or does this represent something else? Are Seear, Franco, Emerson, and others earnestly interested in ritual magick? It’s not all that unusual to see an occasional “big name” become truly interested in Paganism or the occult, but it is unusual to see a number of them expressing their interest at once (publicly).

 

My second question is, if this is simply theater, a performance in tribute to Crowley and the mystique of magic(k), does this event signify a new resurgence of ritual as performance art? Performance art has often turned to religion and magical ritual as a vehicle for expression, Gina Ulysse’s recent avant-garde meditation, “Voodoo Doll, What if Haiti Were a Woman,” or the “Manhattanhenge” workings in New York, for instance. But both of those have a sincerity at their core that implies adherence to the underlying belief systems involved. While I have no doubt that Brian Butler is a sincere occultist, one wonders how Seear or Franco understand or experience events like this. In short, can you separate the art of magic(k), of religion, from its tenants or belief systems? One spectator at the event seemed dissatisfied with how the ritual performance seemed to want to both be a serious ritual, and be a performance piece.

“Would it be an actual (attempted) evocation of Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars? Would it rather be a piece of performance art inspired by Crowley’s evocation of the same? It was neither – or, to be more specific, it was BOTH and that’s why it failed miserably. Evocation is an art unto itself. Even if one is skeptical as to the efficacy of magical activity outside the purely psychological realm, one must recognize the fact that every art form has its own rules. Film has its rules. Theater has its own. Performance art also has certain ideals and conventions that make exclusive demands on the artist. Successful evocation is no different.”

If we are going to see more high-profile ritual magic(k) as performance art, then the ritual must be respected as an art form in of itself, one that can be appropriated, surely, but treated with care all the same. Practitioners who have connections with the art world will also have to decide how they want to engage with this trend, and if it serves their beliefs and practices well to become involved, or distance themselves. Finally, for the famous, semi-famous, or nearly famous who decide to practice these rituals, if only for the sake of performance, should remember that even the intoning of lines and mere participation can have consequences. Not of the dark and spooky alarmist variety, but simply that invoking your Will ritually can change you, and those around you.  What begins as fun, can turn into something else, and no one should make a decision like that lightly.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Christina Oakley-Harrington

Christina Oakley-Harrington

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

For those faith traditions that incorporate magic and spellwork into their practices, Wicca, Santeria, Vodou, and any number of modern Pagan faiths, the urge to invoke supernatural help to solve a problem is sometimes overwhelming. This is especially true when an individual feels limited in what they can do in their day-to-day lives to remove an obstacle or improve their situation. That said, if you’re careless, casting spells on your boss could get you fired.

“Officer Elizabeth Torres, a 24-year department veteran, was terminated by City Manager Lyndon Bonner for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to a city news release. [...] Torres and office manager Yvonne Rodriguez had been accused of targeting Bonner with birdseed, which they believed to be part of a Santeria practice. The two had allegedly planned to scatter the seeds in and around Bonner’s city hall office in August. The alleged plan was concocted after Bonner had planned to cut the police budget, but was discovered after Torres and Rodriguez asked a janitor to help sprinkle the seeds, and the janitor turned them in.”

Both parties involved in the spell plot claim nothing malicious was intended, but it wasn’t enough to save their jobs. So, I guess there’s something of an object lesson here. At the very least, it reinforces the need to not incriminate yourself through accomplices or risky physical manifestations of your work. If it can’t be accomplished at home, or at a private temple, it might not be worth it.

However, underneath this cautionary tale is the larger issue of how businesses, law enforcement, and government should approach spells and spellwork. What’s protected expression, and what’s harassment, or improper conduct? As religions and traditions that engage in magic increasingly enter the mainstream, a larger ethos as to what’s acceptable and what crosses the line will increasingly be needed. What if there wasn’t birdseed, what if they were merely caught after hours chanting, praying, or reading from a book? What if, as Tim Elfrink at the Miami New Times posits, they were Christians caught praying? Would that still be improper conduct? I think we’ll continue to see cases like this in the news, and working their way through the court systems. Until then, I would keep the curses at home.

I’ve often been intrigued by the novels written by Pagans and occultists. Whether well-known like Starhawk’s “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” now in the process of being pitched as a feature film, or obscure like Stewart Farrar’s post-apocalyptic Wiccans-save-the-world (or at least Britain) novel “Omega.” I feel that religiously-motivated works like this can often tell you a lot about the beliefs, ambitions, and hopes of the author. While “religious fiction” is often synonymous today with Christian literature, we shouldn’t forget that modern Paganism and the occult/magickal arts have a long used fictional stories as a way to teach and entertain, from Gerald Gardner’s “High Magic’s Aid” to Dion Fortune’s “The Sea Priestess.” One of the most influential novels of all time is “The Metamorphoses of Apuleius” (aka “The Golden Ass”) by Lucius Apuleius, an initiate to the cult of Isis, written between 160-170 CE. So it’s fair to say there’s a long lineage of “Pagan” novels.

Lon Milo DuQuette has now added his own volume to this tradition, a work that takes a romping fictionalized look at the early life and magical adventures of the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley“Aleister Crowley – Revolt of the Magicians” is set during Crowley’s time with The Golden Dawn and features a who’s who of famous occultists from that period, including William Butler Yeats, Maude Gonne, and Bram Stoker. DuQuette, who has written several texts on magick and the occult, and is something of an expert on the subject of Crowley, brings a knowledgeable flair to the dramas and intrigues of the time, putting his own unique spin on history. I was lucky enough to have  brief email exchange with DuQuette  about the new work, how it came about, and what he really thinks about Crowley’s fiction.


Lon Milo DuQuette

Several occult authors over the years have dipped their toes into writing fiction, most recently Raymond Buckland and Donald Michael Craig, what prompted you to go this route?

“Aleister Crowley — Revolt of the Magicians” is actually my second novel. The first, “Accidental Christ — The Story of Jesus as Told by His Uncle” came out a few years ago. “Revolt…” began not as a book but as a screenplay I was hired to write about 10 years ago. It was optioned by a film production company, and for a while looked like it would actually be produced … but nothing came of it. I had more or less forgotten about it when I was contacted again about nine months ago. As it turns out another film company is interested in the story but in order for the project to qualify for partial funding from (whatever the newest incarnation of …) the UK Film Council the screenplay must be written by a Brit or a Commonwealth citizen. They could, however, adapt the screenplay from a novel written by a non Brit. So I transformed my screenplay into a novel so it might be transformed into a screenplay. Have I confused you enough?

I love the genre of fiction. It is like taking a holiday. I love creating characters and breathing life into them … observing them develop and behave in my mind like independent entities. It’s very magical.

‘Revolt’ is a fantasy (albeit based on historic events and characters) about Crowley and his involvement in the breakup of the Golden Dawn.

You’ve written about Aleister Crowley and his teachings for several years, so it must be something of a “no-brainer” to make him the protagonist of your novel. Did your experience and history make it easy or hard to put yourself inside the head of this fictionalized Crowley?

It was curiously easy, and lots of fun.

Literary works featuring Crowley, or ficitonal characters based on Crowley, have been appearing since 1908. Crowley himself engaged in the practice for “Moonchild”. Do you feel this long literary history influenced you at all? Is there a sort of “fictional” Crowley egregore that feeds the many, many, “Crowleys” in various mediums?

I can’t say it influenced me at all. I wanted to follow a young Crowley, brilliant, naive, passionate … encountering for the first time the world of magick and the secret forces that would later shape him into an adept. This Crowley has never to my knowledge been explored in literature.

In addition to Crowley, your book features Bram Stoker, Moina and MacGregor Mathers, William Butler Yeats, and Maude Gonne, among others. Was it a challenge bringing all these larger-then-life figures together in one book, or did the real-life events on which the novel is loosely based help drive the drama and characterization?

Yes, the real-life events drove the plot, and I shamelessly used the dramatis personae as caricatures. It was great fun, and not at all hard. People point out that there is no evidence that Bram Stoker was a member of the Golden Dawn … I ask them to read the book to see how his presence is justified. Besides … It’s a fantasy people …. lighten up!

Now that the book has been out for over a month now, have you gotten much reaction from occultists, Thelemites, modern Golden Dawn members, and other interested magick-makers about the work? Has the response to these “fairytale caricatures,” as you put it, been largely positive?

So far the personal feedback and the few Amazon reviews have been positive. I’m sure I’ll eventually catch s–t from all directions.

In the book, one of your characters says that “this story can‘t be told as a history because truth cannot be revealed in history.” Do you believe that’s the case with the infamous Golden Dawn schism? Do you think that someday we’ll have more fictionalized retellings of famous incidents in Pagan and occult history? Sort of like Katherine Kurtz’s ”Lammas Night” or even Gardner’s “High Magic’s Aid”?

The development of myth is a strange and inscrutable process. It isn’t people or institutions that drive the process, but the alchemy of human consciousness that chisels the elements of a myth upon the stone of our souls. No one at this point, I believe, can predict what the mythological Crowley will eventually become.

If someone wanted to research the real events that inspired your novel, where would they start? Are there any good books covering that period?

“Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley” by Richard Kaczynski is the most complete and brilliant biography of Crowley. Kaczynski takes great pains to put all the events of Crowley’s life within the context of the history and characters of his world.

Also, “The Battle of Blythe Road: A Golden Dawn Affair (Golden Dawn Studies No 14)” capably edited by Darcy Kuntz

What authors inspire you in your own writing? Are there any occult-themed works of fiction that you find yourself returning to again and again? What would you suggest to someone who loves “Aleister Crowley – Revolt of the Magicians” and wants to read more?

You know … It’s even hard for me to read Crowley’s fiction. It’s like trying to be detached and objective when reading the manuscript of a friend’s novel. You know the author too well … you spot the phoniness of it all … embarrassed by the transparent affectations of the ‘voice’. I feel the same way about Dion Fortune’s fiction … only she is, in my opinion, painfully and distractingly obvious in her attempt to be 19th century-ish.

Other than Crowley himself, the writers who inspire me the most are for the most part not occultists at all … Mark Twain, Jane Austen, the screenplays of Robert Benchley, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and (believe it or not) the lyrics of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Dorothy Fields. Great wit is the voice of the gods. I worship wit. Wit is Ruach sizzling upon the altar of the Neshamah.

Now that you’ve written one novel, are you going to write more? If so, will they also be themed around the occult and magic(k)al history? What other works outside of novels do you have planned for the near future?

Who knows when I’ll feel called to write another novel. I’m currently working on two magical texts with a spring 2011 deadline. I’d talk about them but it’s a little early in the game.

I’d like to thank Lon Milo DuQuette for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions. In addition to  “Aleister Crowley – Revolt of the Magicians” he recently published “Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head … You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is” a follow-up to his acclaimed autobiography, “My Life With The Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician”.

Yesterday Michael Staley at Starfire Publishing announced to the public that British occultist and writer Kenneth Grant passed away on January 15th.

“Kenneth Grant died on 15th January 2011 after a period of illness. Our condolences go first and foremost to his family, whose privacy is something which we all wish to respect at this difficult time.

Kenneth Grant had an extraordinary life, and his work has a remarkable depth and breadth of magical and mystical insight. In particular, his monumental series of Typhonian Trilogies is creative, innovatory and inspiring, extending across thirty years from the publication of the opening volume The Magical Revival in 1972, to the appearance of the final volume The Ninth Arch in 2002. This is a substantial body of work, constituting a solid foundation for further development, widening and deepening in the years to come; his work will continue.”


Portrait of Kenneth Grant by Austin Osman Spare.

Grant had a long and passionate interest in the practice of magic. He studied and corresponded directly with Aleister Crowley, and subsequently devoted a large potion of his life and writings to Thelema and the the Ordo Templi Orientis. Grant and his wife Steffi also had a personal and working relationship with artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare. By the 1950s, Grant had fallen out with Karl Germer, Outer Head of the Order (OHO) of Ordo Templi Orientis, which sparked a schism and the foundation of The Typhonian Order (aka the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis). Over the subsequent decades these two groups would battle over legitimacy and the use the name “O.T.O” until very recently, when Grant’s order lost the right to use the name.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this tension over succession, Grant was a hugely influential writer, thinker, and magician. At the news of his death yesterday, tributes from all corners of the magickal/occult world started to pour out.

“Rest well, occultist Kenneth Grant. May the next leg of the journey be as interesting as your time on earth.”T. Thorn Coyle

“Kenneth Grant was a most significant author to many of us young magicians in the 1970′s. He revived Austin Spare through his books and articles in Man Myth and Magic and deserves to be remembered for that and his kindness to the artist during his life. His remarkable magical partnership with Steffi Grant is without parallel. His life spanned contact with the Old Guard occultists and he spoke the language of the modernist magician. He was a generous correspondent and kind to me and others in our interactions with him. I shall miss him.” - Geraldine Beskin, The Atlantis Bookshop.

“Kenneth Grant’s occultism was not the fervent, dry adherence of the ideologue. Rather, he fashioned a deeply personal, fantastical, dynamic, and intricate system of magic woven together from syncretic elements of Tantra, Voudon, Gnosticism, Surrealism, fiction and a variety of other exotic threads. Building on the foundations of Crowley’s work, Grant expanded the current understanding of the meaning and implications of the “Law of Thelema”. Much like the mystic William Blake, Grant forged his own path beyond esoteric speculation, writing first-hand accounts of what he perceived to exist outside of the range of mundane experience.”Scott Spencer, Coilhouse

“Grant left a powerful and irreparable stamp on the practice of ceremonial magick and occultism, and those who practice chaos magick, emulate the practices of Austin Spare, seek to integrate ATR beliefs and practices into their western occultism and magick, develop a system of magick based on the Necronomicon and the Chthulhu mythos, practice lefthand tantra, or who seek a deeper understanding and appreciation of the writings of Crowley, owe him a great debt of gratitude. Grant seemed to leave no stone unturned, and he managed to forge together the dispirit threads of post modern occultism, science fiction and fantasy, horror fiction, exotic ethnic traditions and obscure antiquities, producing a blend of dark occultism and Lefthand Path practices. If you have even the faintest attraction to the dark side of occultism and magick, then Grant is likely your spiritual godfather, whether or not you have read his books.”Frater Barrabbas

For more on the life and influence of Kenneth Grant, I would recommend checking out artist and researcher Scott Spencer’s obituary for Coilhouse, and the Fulgur publishing house biography. Many of Grant’s works can be purchased through Starfire Publishing.

My best wishes and condolences to Grant’s friends and family. I wish Kenneth Grant well as he begins the next leg of his journey.