Saturday, 17 December 2011

Death Mask

In response to several requests, this is the text of the presentation on Persephone which Alkistis gave at the Day of the Dead event in Glastonbury. We publish it now to mark the darkening into Solstice and Saturnalia.  

Death, Wildflowers and Blood Mysteries

Descent, and the Sacred Way: Iera Odos

Let us begin with a journey, let us begin by taking the road that will lead us to the land of the Dead, where we will come face to face with the goddess of the Underworld herself. 

The goddess of Death, who as Queen of Death is called Persephone, Persephassa, Persephatta …, yet when we first meet her is simply Kore, the maiden. It is also, on one level, an autoportrait – for death, and the dead, are personal.

I dedicate this talk to my dead, to my brother, my grandparents, Santa Teresa, and my friend Glenn, for they are the umbilical cord which, like Ariadne’s thread, returns me to the realm of the Dead where I may solve the enigma of my existence.

In the Greek myth, it is Alkistis the wife of Admetus, who sacrifices her life to save that of her husband – and in most accounts is returned to the land of the living by the hero Heracles. Her descent follows that of Persephone, and it is the pity of that implacable goddess that releases Alkistis from Hades.  And I found it curious that while I was living in Greece, the house keeper, Ekaterina, called me Kore or its diminutive koritz – the girl – perhaps I was not quite human for her, a stranger, incomplete and without experience. 

It seems then that I am destined to talk about Persephone and the descent, a voyage which fascinates me. And whilst I was initially intrigued by the myth as a psychological metaphor for cycles of depression and creativity, through repeated initiations in this cold fire, my understanding has matured and become one with my blood and bones. There is much more to it than a psychological reading will release, and Persephone herself is a recondite figure fraught with complexity and ambiguity.
So first, we must go down as the Kore once did, we must take the road to Hades.

This is the sacred way, the iera odos, the umbilical cord that is the road that the soul of the dead travels to return to the womb. The umbilical imagery is deliberate, as we shall see, when looking at the blood mysteries.

The sacred way is both an extension of the terrestrial road, and a reiteration of the initiatory path with its many bifurcations and crossroads, on which the initiand steps. The Orphic gold tablets tell the initiate that:

…once you have drunk you too will go along the sacred way by which the other mystoi and bakhhoi advance glorious, and afterwards you will reign with the other heroes.

This is also the way of wisdom travelled by Parmenides in the proemium to his poem: 

The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
Rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary
Road of the divinity that carries the man who knows
Through the vast and dark unknown.

Greek folklore and tradition has preserved the importance of the road in its mourning and funerary rituals. The road is itself symbolic of Death, (which is seen as a mutable state, unfixed, disordered, and marked by movement). Ghosts were often encountered on roads or at a crossroads; furthermore, there is a direct parallel between the traveller as messenger and the role of the dead, who function as intermediaries between their living kin and the distant ancestors. They are bringers of news, they deliver dream oracles and messages from beyond the grave.

And because this road has reality in both the material and immaterial worlds, it breaches the divide that would otherwise exile the dead in banishing them from their family or community; the journey along the road of the Dead is one that connects the familiar to the mythic. 

So pervasive is the presence of the road that even the spoken and sung laments of the women’s mourning rituals echo it, effectively incanting the journey that the deceased is to make. Songs suffused with imagery that recalls journeys and the physical and emotional experience of travelling. For instance the description of being out of breath has the double meaning of dying, of losing one’s soul for the Greek word psyche means both breath and soul. 

And it is meaningful that the shaman or psychopomp is always a singer or plays the pipes, for (s)he is a master of breath and flight who by virtue of walking the talk, that is, knowing the ways, leads the dead, and engages in diplomacy.

Thus the road is the way of the shaman and the initiate (mystes), it is the sacred way, the mystic way. What to an uninitiated person is exile and separation, is to one who has been initiated an ecstatic liberation, and leads to union with the divinity. The road of souls is a procession of the dead, of psychopomp and shaman, a masque of bacchants and mænads. And it is a road we have largely forgotten how to travel.

The road brings us to the Asphodel meadow where the dead, quenched on the waters of Lethe, roam like shadows. Here the dead remain, never to pass onwards to judgement, for these are the uniniated, the unheroic and the unlucky. 

And it is a place like this – only in the world of light – where we encounter for the first time the maiden Kore.

Wild flowers

The Kore is gathering wildflowers with her companions – the full-breasted daughters of Okeanos – in a meadow. Some accounts say the Nysa plain, sacred to Dionysos, was the location; in the Sicilian telling of the myth, it is the plain of Enna where the abduction took place, its astonishing lushness evoked by Ovid in Metamorphoses:
Here flowers always bloom, winter never falls,
Here eternal spring smiles.

Meadows were liminal sites, places of ambivalence, danger and encounter. The Greek word used by the poet is leimon – which means a verdant or moist meadow, but is also used to denote the female sexual organs. The flowers are naturally emblematic of a sexual blossoming, and the meadow is the archetypical place of abduction and seduction. We may remember Odysseus, who came to Calypso’s cave in the extreme West – the womb or vulva of the sea; her abode was one of soft and flowering meadows, at once erotic and macabre. Even her name is from the Greek kalyptō – to hide or conceal.

Or, the cloven meadow of Aphrodite – in the words of Empedocles – who identified the love goddess with Eros himself, through whom alone can the path to knowledge be attained. The eroto-gnostic implications are apparent. 

Allusions to the shedding of hymenal blood in the Hymn to Demeter, the virgin sacrificed to the Lord of Death, may be missed in translation but to a native initiate the words and images would have had deeper, chthonic, levels of interpretation.

The language used to describe the Kore identifies her explicitly with the wild flowers she is gathering: she is the blossom itself, fertile and blooming (thaleren), she has a flowers beauty (kalikopidi), is a sweet shoot (glykeron thalos), coming herself from the earth in spring time, she is called a great wonder (mega thauma) just as the narcissus is wonderful to see and the flowers she is picking are a wonder to see (thaumaston/thauma idesthai).

Of the flowers gathered by the Kore, all have aphrodisiac or medicinal properties and may well have formed elements of a pre-grain diet, whether by virtue of their fruit (rose, rhodon) or bulbs (krokos, hyacinthos, narkissos) or shoots. And there is evidence that Kore is a Hellenised version of an earlier Great Goddess whose origins lie in the pre-agrarian stage of human development. One can liken her to Cybele or Demeter’s own mother Rhea, archaic goddesses of the hunt, of the wild uncultivated mountains. 

Interestingly, and more pertinent to the present context – which is erotic as opposed to nutritive – these blood-generated plants are born from youths whose sexual allure is outside the confines of  marriage and is often counter to the strictly heterosexual procreative social norm: Hyacinthos and Krokos die in the midst of homoerotic play with the gods Apollo and Hermes, Narcissus is locked in auto-erotic obsession; Attis, in a mad frenzy, castrates himself  beneath a pine tree just as he is about to marry – from his life blood spring violets; and Adonis, the fragile blood red anemone, fated never to be a wedded consort of Aphrodite, is gored to death by the boar. 

These flowers are wild, uncultivated and we can deduce that their origin myths point to pre-agrarian cultures. Hence we have a pre-agrarian maiden, who has primacy over her ‘mother’ Demeter. I would also propose that Kore is herself, by being likened to the wild flowers descriptively, expressive of a liminal or dangerous state of sexual awakening – unsocialised, unknown, unfamiliar. Let us not forget that eros and thanatos were fatally entwined in Greek myth, and that the untamed maiden was herself a bringer of death.

All die at the height of their eroto-magical potential, their blood infused with the seminal potency of youth, giving them the power to regenerate and transform. Though they are mortal in life, through death they attain that immortality which is proper to vegetation. And the god of vegetation, the god of indestructible and endlessly renewing life, is Dionysos.
All these flowers Persephone gathers, until she picks the fateful narcissus: 

… a marvellous, radiant flower. It was a thing of awe whether for deathless gods or mortal men to see: from its root grew a hundred blooms and it smelled most sweetly, so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth and the sea’s salt swell laughed for joy.

The Hymn even calls it a snare laid for her, and as she reaches to pluck it:

… the earth, full of roads leading every which way, opened up under her. [...] There it was that the Lord who receives many guests made his lunge. He was riding on a chariot drawn by immortal horses. The son of Kronos. The one known by many names. He seized her against her will, put her on his golden chariot, and drove away as she wept.

Who is Hades, the unseen, the one known by many names, who makes his dramatic entrance at this heightened moment of the Kore’s sexual awakening and self-awareness? It is of interest, especially in the context of the Mysteries, to read the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who wrote:

Hades and Dionysus, for whom they rave in bacchic frenzy, are one.

This is an esoteric understanding, a paradox which stresses a concealed truth. There is little in the archæological or literary evidence to suggest that the ancient Greeks accepted this identification, but it is telling that the mysteries of Dionysos were inextricably connected with the Underworld and the salvation of the soul after bodily death. Before the soul comes into the presence of Persephone it must have been liberated first by Dionysos, as the Orphic gold tablets instruct:

Tell Persephone that Bacchios himself has released you. 

Both are referred to as sotir, saviour, in the gold tablets. The night revels of the bacchantes find a parallel in the tradition of conducting funerals at night, so that the soul of the deceased would be buried, and hence released, with the dawn. 

There are many suggestive clues to this identification, even in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter itself, when Demeter is offered wine by her hostess, whilst grieving for her lost daughter:

Then Metaneira offered her a cup, having filled it with honey-sweet wine. But she refused, saying that it was divinely ordained that she not drink red wine.

In other words she cannot accept the gift of her daughter’s ravisher: Dionysos. 

Blood Mysteries: Ieros Gamos

What then can we learn of the Kore, whose sexual awakening/initiation was marked by her recognition of her divine lover, and precipitated by her reaching for the narcissus? She was not always Demeter’s daughter. In Homer the spheres of the two goddesses never touch, and it is Persephone who is the older and more powerful of the two. Neither is there mention of Persephone’s abduction; in the Illiad and the Odyssey, Persephone is an Underworld figure, whose companion is sometimes called Zeus Katachthonios, sometimes Hades. Only later, in Hesiod’s Theogony, a summary of the Hymn’s story is given for the first time: Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, is abducted by Hades.

Following her abduction, and plunged into a state of separation, of individuation and dawning self-awareness, Persephone takes one more irrevocable step. From Hades she receives the pomegranate seed which will bind her to the Underworld. The Hymn tells us she is deceived by Hades, and she herself later protests to Demeter:

...but he secretly put in my mouth sweet food, a pomegranate seed, and forced me to taste against my will.

I fear the Kore doth protest too much… it is as if she cannot, to her mother, admit that the subterranean desire that compelled her was her own.

There is an alternative form of the myth in which Persephone does not return. Virgil in Georgics tells us that: Prosperpine (did) not heed her mother’s voice entreating to return. Virgil is not innovating; the story is told elsewhere and seems to derive from an earlier poem. An even more radical account is that found in Lokri in Sicily, where there is no trace of Demeter in the myth, and Kore is simply the maiden before her abduction, rather than the daughter of Demeter

In the Orphic gold tablets, she is referred to as the subterranean Queen, mother of the Erinyes, she is called Nestis – a cult title that bears the dual meaning of fasting and water, and is the divine name given by Empedocles to the root element water: And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with her tears.
Her association with water and moisture is another connection she shares with Dionysos. 

Another epithet, Brimo (the strong one), she shares with Hecate, Zeus and Dionysos. Evidently she is no ordinary maiden.

By way of her abduction by Hades, her katabasis, she has become Queen of Death, though never is she described as his wife but as his bedmate (akoitis/parakoitis). The language of matrimony is absent and, striking in contrast to the imagery of the flowery meadow, their union is childless.

Here we are in the presence of the paradox of the goddess of Life and Death.

The honey-sweet pomegranate seed, a fruit which is so redolent of blood with its ruby juice is a fitting symbol for menstruation and fertility, yet the Greeks knew pomegranate as a birth control agent since before the archaic period. Its use and its association with the Love goddess is even older in West Asia, being depicted on cult objects, jewellery and figures of both Inanna-Ishtar Astarte and Aphrodite. 

The knowledge and art of pharmakeia, the use of drugs to control birth and fertility, the power over life and death, marks Persephone as a manifestation of the Great Goddess.  

The pomegranate is also the symbol of the sexual union between Persephone and Hades – the hieros gamos – the sacred mystery which lies buried at the heart of the Hymn to Demeter and the myth of Kore’s descent to the the Underworld. This would seem an unlikely context for such a rite, and as Jake Stratton-Kent observes in Geosophia:

This sexual union in death is largely absent from myth for an excellent reason, it is a Mystery. Although a secret of the Mystery religions, which it was forbidden to reveal, it is nevertheless not concealed entirely.

We cannot separate sex and death, the tomb is the womb where life is reborn. This is not simply a modern reading, as we would expect from a Bataille. Emily Vermeule writes:

It was a formal principle of Greek myth and literature that Love and Death are two aspects of the same power.

Eros and Thanatos cannot be separated.

Underlining this is the presence of a massive necropolis on the Enna plain, which is where Kore was taken down. Even today this region is known as the ombelico of Sicily, that is, the navel. The use of the term omphalos/navel for a place of worship derives from the ancient East, where it signified a bond between heaven and earth. A bond between the world above and the world below. This is made more dramatic when we realise that navel is a synonym for womb. And what is particularly striking about Enna is that people were being buried here in the necropolis since the late Paleolithic, explicitly to be reborn. As Penelope Shuttle wisely notes: The cults of the dead are the cults of the unborn.

Kore-Persephone may be the self-same silent goddess of Life and Death always worshipped in Sicily, and who is still worshipped there behind her Catholic mask as the (Black)Virgin. There are ancient cult images of her, called maschere or protomes, found at Lokri in Sicily, having an extreme archaistic style – some appear like death masks, cold withdrawn and with broken eyes, and others with an eerie archaic beauty, animated by an ineffably tender smile. Such images are profoundly evocative of the nature of the maiden.

But in Sicily and Magna Graecia a curious synthesis of two goddesses also takes place. Persephone is endowed with the attributes of Aphrodite, and identified explicitly with her, both iconographically, textually and in cult. These goddesses, who appear so far apart from each other, are almost as one in the Mysteries, with images of Persephone holding a pomegranate and lily with a dove in her lap or winged Eros between her breasts. There is much to pursue here. The identification of Persephone and Aphrodite is a central motif in my own magical Work, and functions as a camera obscura illuminating the mysteries of BABALON, a title of the goddess who Herself is in one sense the fusion of Inanna-Ishtar with Ereshkigal.
To conclude this brief portrait of Persephone, a complex and fascinating Goddess, who gives life to the living and liberates the dead, a goddess in whom death and the erotic are entwined, I want to return by the same route we took when we descended in search of her. For it is this sacred way, the path of souls, of blood and bones, that we open when we honour our dead. Persephone is the divine paradox that unites the mythic with the personal, and whose enigmatic mask – if we are wise, initiated, bold or lucky – will greet our own death mask with a smile.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Queen of the Fig Tree in Hell

The fine bound Figueiro do Inferno edition of Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila has arrived. The speckled crimson leather looks very serpentine and the boards and slipcase are mesmeric in shot silk which shift from a dusky fig to wine as the light catches them. Inside a double gold marble swirls with the energy that is so characteristic of the Pomba Giras.

Our blessings to Pomba Gira, and our thanks to Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold and the aristry of our binders who have done her this great service.

We might have a copy or two of the fine edition left, drop us an email if you want to be added to the waiting list.

The fine edition joins the moire silk and letterpress Salve Regina edition of 769 copies which is still available here:

We also present her in Bibliotheque Rouge paperback and digital Maria editions so that she can offer her solace to all who seek her aid.

Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila is getting great reviews from devotees and those in the West who have been drawn to her mysteries and the vibrant lines of Brazilian witchcraft.

Sarava Pomba Gira!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Summer of Love part one

The first episode of our Summer of Love event has now been cut edited and uploaded by the team at

We really appreciate the professionalism, time, energy and effort that Ken Eakins and his crew put into this.

The first episode showcases Ulysses Black grappling with the issues of identity, magickal names, performance art and authentic action.

We suggest you watch it through to the sticky end.

Future episodes will follow with Jake Stratton-Kent, Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech.

We are pleased that we can share this with our international and absent friends.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Digital Revelations

As book lovers producing real books as objects of magic and beauty we have done the unthinkable and gone digital.

We are obsessed and obsessive about books. When we call ourselves a talismanic publisher it is because we create magical objects to create change in the world. This is explicit in every step of the process, from design to typography to consecration. If you want a magical book, then there is nothing comparable to a hand bound edition in a mass production world. But we are not elitists. We intend to empower the next generation with these books in whatever format necessary.

We want the same  information which is in our fine editions and hardbacks to be accessible. We have also struggled to buy books, pay rent and put food on the table whilst being committed students of magick.

We launched Bibliotheque Rouge to prove that esoteric knowledge should be available and affordable, not artificially scarce and expensive.  Now Rouge will also be releasing e-books.

Our Rouge books are in a direct lineage from the Bibliotheque Bleue chapbooks which mass printed and produced grimoires (amongst other books) in Europe causing and fuelling an explosion of popular magical practice from the seventeenth century onwards.  This gave us Red Dragon, Black Dragon, Grimorium Verum et al. It was a bold and brash move which put books that had often circulated as costly manuscripts into the hands of every man (and woman) confounding the censorious church.

Such a change is occurring again and we ally ourselves with it. 

Magical books changed radically with the invention of the printing press, no longer hand copied and clandestine, these rough and ready inventions both preserved and spread dangerous ideas like wildfire.
Was their magic any worse for it being performed out of tatty blue pamphlets?

Magic is not just the book itself, but crucially what you do with it.
Attainment comes from the Work and not the object alone.

The printing press democratised and empowered practitioners and we are seeing an equally potent event now happening in the digital age.  As a small publisher we are able to produce paperback editions in print runs or on demand in a way that does not bankrupt us.  We like the fact that paperbacks do not simply fall out of print but continue to cause trouble in the world, just as they should.

Yet if the Devil is the god of the printing press, then Lucifer is surely the digital information revolution.

 In the last year the landscape has radically changed. The digital book, whether on kindle or i-pad or sony reader has become ubiquitous. Information is now fluid, and any published book can and will be digitised. Content is agnostic, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise. Limitation is becoming a lie.

We know that occultists appreciate the art inherent in the book and will continue to cherish these living things and not abandon them for zeros and ones. The e-book is complimentary rather than a replacement for the physical form.

The e-book hopefully means more people will read books. That can only be a good thing. It also means that we can create affordable versions of our work so that readers can take the risk on new authors and unfamiliar subjects. You can dare to read and enrich yourself outside of your field, perhaps you haven’t encountered Pomba Gira or Palo Mayombe before, or you want to see if the poetry cuts it.

It allows you to travel with a library rather than dislocating your shoulder with a satchel full of books- as we often do. It makes unwieldy reference texts quickly searchable for research.

To this end, we are issuing all of our future paperback Bibliotheque Rouge titles in epub and mobi format.

Does this mean that we are starry-eyed converts, adoring the new format of the book? Far from it. The digital reader is both a technological inevitability and wedded to a clear attempt to control all of publishing by the Scylla and Charybdis of Amazon and Apple. This will maim publishers, bookshops and printers, large and small. This alas seems inevitable.  Skills such as editing, layout and typography will continue to decline in the mass market. We know our readers will continue to act with discrimination and support small publishers by buying direct and knowing the value of the book itself.

The e-readers themselves are designed to die, in a cycle of fake upgrades, fashion and the component failure of built in obsolescence. You will keep having to buy more hardware and the third world will get more container loads of toxic junk in return. Digital information does not survive collapse in the resilient way that hard copy does. Let’s not pretend that the environmental impact is anything other than an ongoing catastrophe. 

However, as the world enters into radical flux, magick responds.
Now, more than ever, there is an urgency to communicate and we hope that by embracing the digital revolution we can get these relevant voices of modern magick to the new generation.

We still hold firm to our commitment to the physical book as a repository of force and form.
There is something very special about the book, which will endure when the last kindle is thrown in a landfill.
(We will of course replace lost files for you free of charge as long as the lights stay on.)

Our books are specifically made to accomplish magical results, and digital books are simply an extension of that aim.
If you want a book that will potentially last as long as our species does, buy a fine or hardback edition.
If you want a book to underline, throw in your bag or take to the woods in the rain, choose a paperback.
If you simply want the raw data file, download an e-book.

We are daring to offering a free and unfettered choice.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rushing after Roses

Prints of the Red Goddess cover are now available in a limited run of 200 prints from the artist, retitled simply with Babalon. A striking modern icon:

The prints are $100 each, signed and numbered by Christopher Conn Askew.
Gorgeous quality, we just hope that there are enough left for our readers as desire for this has been overwhelmingly expressed.

We missed the announcement too, afflicted mercury seems to be causing some strife with communication. We thought this print was going to happen after the exhibition which has just opened at the Merry Karnowsky gallery in LA and have been so busy with digital editions that we have barely caught breath for the past month. Our congratulations to Chris on the show. 

You probably want to make an order for your icon  as quickly as possible as these will not be re-issued.

The link with order details is here:

Good luck!

In Nomine Babalon

Peter Grey

Monday, 17 October 2011

Jack Parsons, Babalon, Witchcraft

Jack Parsons is still a name that is not widely known in witchcraft. Despite pre-dating Gardnerian Wicca and the later traditions, his ideas and writings have not gained the recognition that they rightly deserve.

What is most striking is how modern Jack seems, a rocket scientist whose discoveries literally put man on the moon. His writing is clear and empassioned, and cuts to the core of what witchraft is. A free thinker, rebel and libertarian who argued for sexual freedom and women's rights before it was fashionable. A bohemian who experimented with drugs, new ways of living, and dared to dream of what human potential could acheive.

Jack Parsons is the bridge between the generation of Crowley and the revolutionary potential unleashed in the sixties. It seems that the same revolutionary spirit is returning with the occupy movement and the increased profile of the psychedelic movement. Jack would be in favour of the renewed vigour being felt in magick and wider culture in these critical times. 

We discuss his work in The Red Goddess in relation to the Babalon Working and the emergence of Babalon into the modern world. His legacy has still not fully unfolded.

We've been talking for the past few years about Babalon, Jack and Witchcraft to audiences of pagans, witches and thelemites. This is a story that needs to be repeated. To that end, here is another field recording from Scotland this time made at the Wyrd Shop on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. A good introduction to Jack, and a different version to any of the writing that we have previously published on the subject. Again, we stress that this is a rough field recording made on simple equipment. We hope that the ideas presented in this way will impact upon more people and that both witchcraft and magic will acknowledge his ideas and take them forward.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Strewn with petals

Today we unwrapped the Bibliotheque Rouge paperback proofs for both Datura and Pomba Gira.
The shocking pink of the Maria edition of Pomba Gira should enliven the most staid of occult bookshelves!

The sumptuous  hardback edition  of Pomba Gira is causing quite a stir, and the fine edition is in preparation with our binders. Our further congratulations are due to author Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold for creating this important work.

We are very pleased to be able to make Datura available in a paperback edition as poetry of this quality deserves a wider recognition and readership. The next volume in this series, Mandragora, is already flourishing in the care of our poetry editor Ruby Sara.

Both paperback titles will be ready to ship in another couple of weeks, we hope to have copies with us for the Day of the Dead conference in Glastonbury which we are eagerly anticipating..

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Woodsmoke and Wormwood

It was back in March 2010 when we went on a Black Pilgrimage travelling from Cornwall to Scotland. This was the first opportunity to put some of the ideas from XVI before different audiences.

We were told by the skeptics that these ideas were not relevant to magic. That the esoteric did not mix with ecology and politics and engagement with the world.
Others thanked us for putting it into words.
For daring to say it.

Now we can all see the fissures crazing their way across The Tower.
Europe is in disarray. Greece set to default. Italy a sham. Spain's youth taking to the streets. Wall Street is occupied. Oil spills and ecological disasters are multiplying. These are not the acts of some recession, depression or slump that we can print our way out of with paper promises.

You are watching a civilisation end.

It is not a banking crisis, it is the devouring of resources with the madness of any monotheism.
There is no infinite economic growth on a finite resource planet.

As magickians we need to engage with the raw forces unleashed in these moments.

Take action to direct where the cards will fall.

To that end I'm posting a set of field recordings of my 'Seeing Through Apocalypse' speech shot with a digi cam that eventually gets the focus right. It gives a feel for the crackling fire and the icy night in a Scottish farmhouse way out in the back of beyond. No fancy cut fades and edits, just a small group of individuals trying to understand what is coming through human psychology, the eschatology of John Dee, and the urgings of Babalon. The polished version is to be found bound into the book, but this document too says something of it and maybe that way the ideas will get out to more people, which is always our aim.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Magical bindings

Our books are a pleasure for the few, desired by many. 

We create books as magical objects, which carry not only the force of the words, but the charge and spirit which is inevitably lost in the mass-produced object.   

Today we welcome two major accolades for our work.
Though our audience remain the serious practitioners within the occult community, we have gained recognition outside of these restricted circles for the quality of the work which we are creating in the perhaps even more arcane world of the fine book arts.

The creation of beautiful books is an art form in and of itself and in which we still consider ourselves neophytes. Each book has its particular spirit to embody and bind.

Beneath each book is a pyramid of artisans. We also want to give complete credit to the bookbinders, papermakers and artists who we work with to realise these visions.

Our Kill all Kings edition of XVI has been shortlisted for the Limited Edition and Fine Binding category of the British Book Design and Production Award.

The Awards is one of the most prestigious and popular literary events of the year that recognises, promotes and acknowledges the excellence of the British book design and production industry.

This is a major achievement, placing us alongside major players such as Penguin and specialist presses alike. No other occult publisher has ever made it to the shortlist.

The fine edition of
XVI is an imposing slab of red leather in a dramatically incised slipcase with molten gold endpapers and charred edges. It is a dramatic and modern book which fuses traditional skills with bold design. The typography continues the drama with letters stacked into perilous towers that echo the substance of the text. Form meets function meets powerful prophetic writing.

Our nomination for the award is not for the content of the work, but it does remain strikingly apt as
XVI deals explicitly with the need to artistically engage with a culture and civilisation in collapse. It asks what magick can, should and must do in the face of ecological, economic and intellectual disintegration.

The fine edition of
XVI has of course sold out, but then that’s a good reminder to email us and join the subscriber list. Scarlet Imprint continues to gain momentum.

We’d further note that the linen cloth bound ‘standard’ edition of
XVI is still available and uses materials which would make it a fine edition for any sane publisher. As for the recent red water silk Pomba Gira, she is beyond being simply a temptation, she is irresistible. We know that our readers appreciate beauty, just as the spirits also appreciate these offerings.

The recognition continues, Alkistis has been commissioned to design a binding for the British Library celebrating 1000 years of the Bookbinders Art. Another major accolade, with her described by our bindery, which is one of the most esteemed in England, as ‘the best contemporary book designer we work with… by some margin’.

We are proud to be part of this heritage and supporting the craftsmen and women who preserve these arts.

For those needing more bibliophilia, please see our website

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

With hooves of steel we race on the rocks...

More upcoming events in the UK as we gallop towards the Autumn Equinox. 
We are refreshed from pilgrimage, back in the office and wrapping, packing and sending out books.

Conference of Magic

Bournemouth UK
Saturday October 1
£10 advance tickets.

The Bournemouth Pagan society go from strength to strength presenting a wide spectrum of talks from Egyptian Daemonology, Haitian Vodou, herb lore, and some Greek necromancy from Jake Stratton-Kent.

Jake Stratton-Kent, Mogg Morgan, Hounsi Sophia, Sef Salem, Ivy Kerrigan & Simon Wood.
Plus workshops.

Pagan Federation 40
London UK
Saturday October 8
£20-£25 non members.

The Pagan Federation turns 40 and with witchcraft and paganism facing some critical challenges we are interested to see how this community is responding.It looks like they are pulling out all the stops for this one. We note that they have chosen to mark a Venus number.

Ronald Hutton, Mogg Morgan, our dear friend Dr Julian Vayne, Caroline Wise et al in a packed day and optional night.

Day of the Dead Conference
Glastonbury UK
Saturday October 29
£20 with mexican buffet.

Botanica boys Jack and Jamie, will be hosting a Day of the Dead spectacular in Glastonbury.
Offerings will be made to the ancestors at a shrine to Santa Muerte and their are some dazzling talks promised. This is an important feast day and one that we are proud to support. Alkistis will be giving a new presentation and we are delighted to see so many strong women speaking in an often male dominated arena. 

Alkistis Dimech, Jake Stratton-Kent, Paul Weston, Josephine McCarthy, Charlotte Rodgers, Kim Huggens, and Pam Walker.

For those outside the UK looking for stimulation but lacking in real world events, we can recommend reading the collected Fenris Wolf  edited by Carl Abrahamsson whose work also appears in our own XVI. The return of Fenris Wolf as a truly independent occult journal is very welcome. This edition is likely to sell out pretty quickly, pick it up from Midian in the UK/Worldwide and JD Holmes in the US.

More book news to follow this week with the Crossed Keys fine edition here and the  Pomba Gira standard edition also due.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Brighton Occultists Rock

The Occult revolution is upon us, you can feel it with every new event, each conjunction, that the energy is returning. We just celebrated another turn of the wheel in Brighton with the Summer of Love, orchestrating not a conference, not an event, but a happening.

It was a welcome return for Scarlet Imprint which was aptly founded in this Regency dream of pleasure and the collision of occidental and oriental opulence. Brighton has been smeared with the ash of Crowley’s cremation, pierced by the counterculture of TOPY, seen the Occulture Festival rise and fall,  and proudly, queerly, keeps reinventing itself. We are part of that history. It is a city living out an eternal youth, open to all possibilities of transformation. It reeks of sin, but is self-possessed, dressed with feathers and glitter for an end of the world party, any day or night of the god damned week. My, what a perfect place to inaugurate a Summer of Love.  Floating in an architecture of mirage and fantasy, the magical possibilities of such a place can be carved out of the air. We chose to do so, and Brighton, we will return.

The Greek temple façade of the Unitarian church faces the brothels-turned-bars, and the stables of the palace with their honeycomb tunnels for the facilitation of consort between princes and whores. Based on the Athenian temple of Hephaestus, it seemed a peculiarly apt for such a gathering of the children of Cain to hammer out their differences and forge new links. The message of the Unitarians is a welcome one, an inclusive post-Christian recognition that we can learn from all spiritual traditions. This is what we are intent on doing. A melting of misunderstandings, antagonisms, and misplaced scene elitism, like so much ice-cream in a skull cup. Perhaps we can learn to share our common experiences? This is the future, a wilful destruction of the artificial divisions between magician, witch, orders and the disorderly. Of course we can still disagree, debate and dispute, but we must also be able to dissolve like the proverbial LSD sugar cube on the tongue of a neophyte.

So we thank those came, the readers, the writers, the poets, the dancers, the musicians, the ritualists, the witches, the carcists, the wild women, the publishers, the book dealers, the whole panoply, friends in this endeavour.

To have Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold in England was a blessing. Having worked all Summer on his book under the spreading branches and dry perfume of the fig trees, they finally bore fruit. Perfect timing. The baskets of quartered erotic flesh that we served will make yet more sense when you read what Nicholaj has to say about Pomba Gira and the fig tree in Hell. When Nicholaj made his offering to Pomba Gira we must remember that this is still a city of whores, of free women, of knee-trembling back alleys and sexual adventures. When you read the accounts of Maria Padilha, you can also remember another Maria, Maria Fitzherbert, the uncrowned Catholic mistress of King George whose namesake pub was where we dashed to buy drinks between speeches. I remember my own offerings to Pomba Gira, not so far from this spot, and wonder what magical skeins connect them all.
Nicholaj is the real deal, a serious student and teacher with a vast working and comparative knowledge of Brazilian and Cuban cults, Tantra, Witchcraft and the Western Magical Tradition. He has put the time in, and it shows. Though we are waiting on the printer we were able to present him with one of the dramatic red moiré copies of his Pomba Gira which presided over the proceedings of the day from the stage. Today was another taste of the ripe fruit as we all wait hungrily for the book!

Jake Stratton-Kent continues to blaze through the implications of Geosophia for Western magic. This two volume work is going to gain momentum over the next century, and will be recognised as a key text for understanding all the magic that is to come. Jake writes prose like carving marble, and that makes demands on the reader which require commitment. Magic is Work. In the flesh, he is an electric imp, insistent, enthused, and obviously in command of his material. If you are a student of magic at whatever stage of your career, it would be worth paying attention to and engaging with JSK who rightly venerates the bones rather than just paying homage to the appeals of the ephemeral flesh. 

Stephen Grasso was tempted down from his South London haunts to lay down some dapper patter. A psychogeographical tour through the magic of his city. A dérive that was not derivative, but reminded us of Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and Alan Moore at his best. A claustrophobic clawing through the dirt and bowels of the city to find the magic in the urban overwritten city of the Moon Goddess. Props to Stephen for daring to compose literature and incant it over a live audience. For those who haven’t followed his work, there are essays in Devoted and XVI you may want to follow up. Watch this man.

In an horrific emerald frilled shirt I delivered a piece on Lucifer in relation to the grimoires and the ritual of the pact. This has been a subject which I have spent some years working on, and which notably the BlackDragon has elucidated further for me. Publishing for purely magical reasons has these results, as does sacrifice and ordeal. It seems that some of the speech appropriately eluded the camera crew, but a fuller printed version of this will be forthcoming from Scarlet Imprint.

Alkistis Dimech set herself a major task in The Mirror of Sacrifice. To communicate the essence of Butoh, an avant-garde Japanese dance form which she has practised for the last ten years, and to relate that to elements of shamanic training, magic, ritual and performance. It was a challenge which she rose to. We are pleased that amongst our audience and readers are a number of dancers who resonate to this body-based approach. Alkistis will be giving a further talk at the Day of the Dead in Glastonbury and is engaged in more writing work to follow her essay on witchcraft in XVI.  

Ulysses Black is an unfamiliar name and deliberately so. His durational performance of black mirror staring lasted from event opening until he took the stage. His was the final striptease and reveal for the day event. Ulysses Black outed himself publically as the latest face and phase of the man born as Orlando Britts, whose Totemic Invocations written as Jack Macbeth is one of the most sought after of modern grimoires.  A performance artist, his discussion of identity, ritual and action asked uncomfortable questions of all of us. Who exactly are we? On his evidence, Beuys and Nitsch should be recognised as part of the occult syllabus. It all came to a sticky end where the artist ate his own words. An important moment and another blurring of the lines between performance, ritual and magic. 

The evening event gave Nous the chance to take to the decks. With all the talk of Assassins in the occult milieu we thought it best to have a genuine one to spin the tunes for the attending Templars and Witches. His brand of sonic heresy and desire for elusive perfection are close to our hearts. We also know him as a serious academic hermeticist which his essays in Howlings and XVI attest to.

Michael Azzato thrilled with his Egyptian dance. He demonstrated how to make an entrance in an unashamed clinging cerise number. A dance of hip shimmying virtuosity won over all present. Michael is not just eye-candy, but a talented performer and devotee. An exhuberant  and uplifting performance in front of his magical peers which was greeted with appreciative ululation.

Alkistis enthralled with a virtuoso butoh dance. It was a privilege to watch such an intimate dance. I have never seen an audience so intent on catching every instant and nuance of a performance. A fragile, difficult and otherworldly experience unfolded. The emotional impact was profound. I lost track of the number of people who rushed up after the performance, compelled to hold her in the cathartic wake of their journey with her. We deliberately did not film this.

Stephen Grasso finished with his crate of voodoo vinyl and we were soon on the steps of our requisitioned temple drinking in the end of the night. Boundaries dissolved, ritual finished, glasses in hand. Three performers gyrated their hula hoop routine in the street for kicks not cash, a hybrid fusion of Pomba Gira and Rofocale. A good sign. The Brighton night is balmy and perverse enough to contain it all.

We have more to do, and yes, that is an account of just a hundred people in a hijacked church, of a vibrant collision of magic, music, ritual and performance. A moment, a happening, a what-the-hell was that? But those who are making the effort are shot through with the energy from it like a stick of Brighton rock. How many magicians does it take to create change, to make the grass green, the flowers grow?
The game is on.

Podcast of the speeches to follow courtesy of