Archives For Seattle

[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.

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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…!

Greetings everyone! I feel I’ve been away a long time because I was at PantheaCon in San Jose two weekends ago, and then working at FaerieCon West in Seattle this past weekend. I’ve been in my house only a full two days in between events, and it has left me feeling like I truly was disconnected from the “real” world, so it’s been something like an otherworldly sojourn. But now I’m back, I’m catching up, and returning to my daily routine. I’d like to thank my staff and columnists at The Wild Hunt for filling in while I’ve been away, and tomorrow I expect to be back to (relatively) normal and bringing you relevant (Pagan) news.

For now, I’d like to share a few images from my FaerieCon West adventure, and present a panel I moderated that featured T. Thorn Coyle, Raven Grimassi, and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi.

Me interviewing acclaimed mythic fiction author Charles de Lint. Stay tuned for the audio of that conversation. Photo: T. Thorn Coyle.

Me interviewing acclaimed mythic fiction author Charles de Lint. Stay tuned for the audio of that conversation. Photo: T. Thorn Coyle.

German "paganfolk" band Faun playing at FaerieCon's Bad Faerie's Ball this past Saturday night.

German “paganfolk” band Faun playing at FaerieCon’s Bad Faerie’s Ball this past Saturday night.

Robert Gould interviews a panel of mythic artists: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Stephanie Lostimolo, Renae Taylor, and Maxine Miller.

Robert Gould interviews a panel of mythic artists: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Stephanie Lostimolo, Renae Taylor, and Maxine Miller.

Finally, here’s audio from a panel I moderated that discusses how you take the magic of these events home with you. Appropriate, I think, considering my current state.

Me, Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, Raven Grimassi, and T. Thorn Coyle being very thoughtful.

Me, Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, Raven Grimassi, and T. Thorn Coyle being very thoughtful.

“In this panel of spiritual luminaries: T. Thorn Coyle, Raven Grimassi, Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, and moderator Jason Pitzl-Waters of The Wild Hunt, we discuss how to integrate the otherworldly and mythic into your day to day life. How do you take the magic of FaerieCon, or your favorite festival, home?”

So, it’s good to be back. If you are returning from your own otherworldly events I wish you an easy transition, fond memories, and positive transformations.

Mark RyanWhen we left off yesterdayMark Ryan was discussing his experience creating the Greenwood Tarot.  This wildly popular deck was published in 1996 after five long years of work by himself and artist Chesca Potter. Eventually, Mark moved on to other projects. He made guest appearances on a number of American T.V. shows and movies such as: Frasier, AliasJ.A.G., and Charlie’s Angels (film).  He was hired as a sword coach for Richard Gere during the filming of First Night.  And, he toured with Eric Idle in a British comedy theatrical special entitled, “Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python.”  The list seems endless.

However, by 2002, the Greenwood deck was out-of-print. Over the next few years, unopened copies were being sold online for upwards of $2-3,000.  Would Mark re-publish the deck?  Or, was his Tarot journey over?

Part 2:  A Conversation with Mark Ryan, October 4, 2012

Heather: How did you go from The Greenwood to The Wildwood?

Wildwood TarotMark:  I [was] approached to re-publish the [Greenwood Tarot] by several people including the original publishers. Chesca, I believe, changed her spiritual belief path and decided her artwork was not viable. So, I said [to the publishers], “Well, I don’t even know where Chesca is and don’t know how we would sit down and think about it.”  John Matthews, later, approached me and said, “Have you thought about redoing [Greenwood]?”  And I said, “Yes, I’ve been approached. But Chesca’s artwork is in copyright and nobody knows where she is. So we’d have to get a new artist.”

If we could get an artist that was going to bring an extra dimension to this [project], it was definitely worth looking at. Because John had been involved in the development of Greenwood and has written over 100 books on mythological things and because we’d been friends for a long time, I said, “Let’s do it together.”

We got Will Worthington as an artist. As soon as I saw his stuff, I said, “This is going to be a different dimension.” Chesca’s artwork, while being very esoteric and primal, wasn’t easily accessible. I make no apologies for saying, “I like stuff to be accessible.” Once Will started turning out the artwork, I knew we had something quite special.

H: That’s true. The Wildwood Tarot has been just as popular.  It’s changing people’s lives.

M: That’s the point. When you talk about “celebrity,” [it’s] just a vehicle to pull out those ideas that affect people’s lives. If [I am] going to leave anything behind in this world, and we all will, then I want to leave something where people say, “That affected my life.” [Like] Robin of Sherwood, I’ve had more people around the world who have said, “That show changed my life.”

H:  It’s very impressive how you’ve managed to balance your career with such a diverse set of projects from authoring Tarot books, performing on stage and screen as well as being as a master swordsman. 

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Mark Ryan as Nasir

M: Yes, and, I was also in the Military. That’s the other side of all of this: finding the balance between the discipline and the spirituality of the sword, the relationship to that symbol and the concept of being a warrior. Then, bringing that into your psyche and applying it.

I’ve got my dog tags here. They’ve got Atheist on them because they didn’t want to put Pagan. If I had been caught anywhere, in a strange place, it would have been quite disastrous. I did try to explain quantum physics, human psychology and the concept of talking to mountain streams or the ocean. But soldiers don’t tend to have those conversations with their senior officers, so I just put Atheist on there.

H: Today, you don’t hide the fact that you Pagan. You talk about it publicly on L.A.’s Combat Radio. Do you every worry about being harassed by fans or industry people?

M: No. [laugh] This is California. L.A. stands for lunatic asylum. I fit in. I’m a member of the loony bin. [laugh] People are much more open and forgiving about any belief systems [here.] They have a go at me more about my interest in Unidentified Flying Objects than they do about the esoteric.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone that I know to have an alternative religious view be persecuted. When we did First Knight, Richard Gere used to chant every morning. And, he was very calm, very focused, very nice, and a very generous person.

Only once in my life, I can honestly say, have I actually had my interest in the esoteric used negatively. It was a family matter. It was brought up that I had been writing books about Tarot and that I had written something for DC comics. It was an attempt to blacken my character. Even the judge, who was a staunch Christian, threw the whole thing out and said, “This is crazy. We are talking about DC Comics. We are talking about Tarot cards. This is not devil worshiping lunacy. The guy is quite erudite about it and can explain the symbolism, the functionality and the science of it.” Desperate people do desperate things.

H:  It seems that your spiritual path has helped your career, integrating into your life’s journey.

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50th Anniversary Edition of The Green Arrow: The Black Alchemist

M: It’s about being able to articulate a belief system. I come at it from a scientific standpoint – sub-atomic particle physics. Every time they find something new, like the Higgs boson, it opens up a new area of spiritual discussion. I believe that we can, consciously and sub-consciously, communicate with that universe. We don’t need a person or a belief structure. We can do it directly – whether you see it as the “old guy in the sky with the beard” or the Goddess. Somehow we have an intrinsic and instinctive connection on a subatomic particle level to our reality. We can affect our reality by the way we think.

The real magic is in taking that elusive idea, that concept that comes out of the back of your head, and changing it into a material thing. That’s magic – manifesting that idea and turning it into reality.

And, [then there’s] synchronicity. I believe that the way you view the particle, changes the particle [Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.] I try, on a daily basis, to practice changing the particles around me by putting them the way that I want them to go; instead of feeling that I’m a victim being dragged along some path. I don’t believe in fate.

H: Is that what you attribute your success to? Not waiting around. You are changing the particles. 

H: That’s a great story. Very inspiring.  Was it pure luck or synchronicity?

M: I [sometimes] think to myself, “Well, you’ve been lucky.” Ray Winstone, a good friend of mine, said, “It’s not luck. You make your luck. You are willing to go that far on the journey to find it. Consider all the barriers that are in people’s way. We didn’t see the barriers, because we didn’t know they were there. So for us, the barriers didn’t exist.”

When I look back at my career and life, I think, “That’s true.” I don’t know whether the universe helps the ignorant. But I’ve never been afraid of the unknown, of saying, “let’s push it and see how far we can go with this.” I’m not a particularly talented person. But every bit of talent I’ve got, I’ve pushed as far as I can make it go.

Mark RyanH: That’s a very positive message – both a spiritual and philosophical one.

M: I believe if you walk forward positively and creatively, you attract positive, creative. If you’re negative, destructive, selfish, and closed, that’s what you get.

H: That sounds like magick to me. Before we end, would you like to leave the readers with any other message from your own journey? Something you might share in your Tarot workshops.

M: Yes. My father’s advice to me, when he wanted me to go into the construction business but knew I was destined for some theatrical career, was, “Son, I don’t care what you do as long as whatever you try, you give 110% effort. That way you’ll never lose.” You can’t fail even if something doesn’t work out. You can’t fail if you take something away that you can apply somewhere else.  So when I’ve done things that haven’t worked out, I take some experience from that and apply it to the next project. Yes, there are negative elements in life, of course. But you can’t get bogged down by them so you don’t evolve.

Life is a learning process.

H:  Thank you very much, Mark.

While there may not be many mainstream entertainment celebrities that we can definitively pinpoint as being practicing Pagans, they do, in fact, exist.  As for Mark Ryan, his journey still continues.  In November, Mark will be hosting two Wildwood Tarot Workshops with long-time friend John Matthews.  The first is in Atlanta and the second in Seattle.  Beyond that, Mark continues his work on the Transformers Movie franchise as the voice of “Bumblebee.”  And, he is currently in the process of writing several books. You can listen to Mark weekly on Combat Radio and or follow him on Twitter @markryan243.

[Note: This was Part 2 of a two part series. Part 1 can be found here.]

 

I’m in Seattle, Washington this weekend, part of the team that’s putting on FaerieCon West, a transformational celebration of music, myth, fantasy, and, of course, faerie. While FaerieCon West, and events like it, are not explicitly Pagan, the openness and embrace of Pagan culture can’t be missed by anyone whose eyes are open to it.

While there are many presentations and performances I’m looking forward to, I’m perhaps most excited about participating in a panel discussion with Jeet Kei Leung, who’s writing a book entitled “Dancing Together into The Great Shift: Transformational Festivals & The New Evolutionary Culture”, and once again getting to interview famed urban fantasy author Charles de Lint, best known for his “Newford” novels. I hope to bring you photos, interviews, and coverage from what I’m hoping will be amazing weekend. If you’re in the Seattle area, I hope you’ll drop by, experience it for yourself, and say hello!

In the meantime, before I head off, here’s a few quick Pagan news notes that I thought you should know about.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

[The following is a guest post by Dr. Amy Hale. Dr. Hale is an anthropologist specializing in contemporary Celtic cultures, with an emphasis on modern Cornwall and contemporary Esoteric culture and history. She recently attending the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle and files this report. All the photos used in this post were provided by Anima Nocturna via EBC Administrator William J. Kiesel.]

A couple of weekends ago, on the 10th and 11th of September, Seattle was again host to the Esoteric Book Conference, superbly organized by William Kiesel of Ouroborous Press and Catamara Rosarium of Rosarium Blends. Now in its third year, the EBC is becoming the go to event for thoughtful discussion on a variety of esoteric topics ranging from historical approaches to well considered practice. For many visitors, the highlight is on the books. The showroom presented 22 esoteric publishers such as Fulgur Limited, Ouroborous Press, Concrescent Press, Mandrake, Immanion and Ars Obscura, who featured their back catalogues and new releases. It provided a fine opportunity for excited shoppers to see what is new on the market, find a previously owned treasure, and also to peruse and fondle some exquisitely crafted specialist books. Authors had the opportunity to promote their work as well, for example, on Saturday afternoon, Brandy Williams launched her exciting new offering The Woman Magician hot off the presses from Llewellyn.

William Kiesel of Ouroborous Press and Catamara Rosarium of Rosarium Blends.

William Kiesel and Catamara Rosarium.

The EBC program of eleven speakers this year was ironically light on women presenters, but women featured heavily as topics of interest and exploration. Just to mention a few here, Brian Butler spoke on the life of the magician and artist Marjorie Cameron, wife of Jack Parsons, and shared with the audience some amazing rare film footage that demonstrated the power of this intriguing and compelling magician. Vere Chappell presented a standout and very touching lecture on the life and work of Ida Craddock, a pioneer of sexual education for both men and women who tragically became a martyr to the cause of sexual expression. Barbara Cormack led a refreshing and solid panel discussion of women involved with the practice of the Golden Dawn magical system. Another highlight of the lectures was the talk by Alchemist Robert Bartlett, who delighted the audience with a brief romp through the history of alchemy and shared some wonderful illustrations of his own practical alchemical work.

Barbara Cormack leading a panel discussion of women involved with the practice of the Golden Dawn magical system.

A panel discussion of women involved with the practice of the Golden Dawn magical system.

The EBC isn’t just about feeding the mind, however, there was plenty on offer to stimulate all the senses. Performance artist Oryelle engaged the audience with his multimedia piece Solve et Coagula, and the Saturday evening event showcased passionate performances from Amodali, LUX Interna and Waldteufel. EBC also hosts an art show, ranging from the ceramics of Seattle based artist and magician Denny Sargent to the whimsical and delightful prints of Liv Rainey-Smith and the oils of Daniel Schulke. One can only hope that this section of the EBC keeps expanding! On Sunday night the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn hosted a prosperity ritual based on the opening of their Neophyte Hall, which gave conference participants a rare opportunity to experience a full blown, formal Golden Dawn ritual.

Amodali performing at the Esoteric Book Conference.

Amodali performing at the Esoteric Book Conference.

Overall the Esoteric Book Conference is a fantastic event which is becoming very well beloved by its regular attendees. I look forward to seeing what next year will bring.