Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Death of the New Age

Consider this an obsidian knife, one which has been patiently napped out of the black volcanic glass and now has its final eccentric shape. The handle was formed in the sixties counterculture, a psychedelic mess once all the real hopes of change had been flaked away. All the turned on led by pied pipers away from confronting the war in Vietnam, the horrors of a petrochemical age, and into righteous self-obsession. There are no Black Panthers, Weather Underground, Malcolm X, it is a resolutely Caucasian and privileged tableaux of figures on the work that stands before us.

The youth revolution was lost. A subset followed human potential movement into weekend retreats and anodyne absolution of responsibility for the world. A substitution for change was given in dietary restrictions, yoga for abs, and chanting for world peace. The result? A counter revolution of wars on drugs, on terror, on people, on the planet, proceeding unchecked and gathering fateful pace.

Solstice 2012 should be pinioned with this obsidian knife. The new age has ended, huddling under stripy blankets with a chillum at dawn on the precincts of Tikhal, the steps of Chichen Itza. The children of Cortez, the Quetzacoatl who brought death to a continent, a world, now camp out in the picturesque ruins and make their final abasement a shambling ritual event.

Welcome to the new dawn, and no it has not brought the aliens, the jesus, the evolution, the rapture to save the helpless, the credulous, the menopausal, the adrift. The garrulous adorable rap of St McKenna of Soma has reached its omega point. This date must bring death to this delusion.

As a magician, this is my stated intent.  

But even with such sharp tools to hand, this will not be an easy corpse to flay. The prophets and tour guides of this credulous consumer cult will already have their platitudes ready.  They will not abandon a pyramid scheme of book signings, exotic holiday breaks and the endless raking of money and guilt out of their victims' pockets in return for vaguely ethnic clothing and vaguer ideas for their sense of loss and longing.

To understand the need for the knife we need to employ this term: Cognitive dissonance.  The phrase itself was invented to explain what happens when prophecy fails, leaving a landing site of believers, whether Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Cargo Cult or whoever, bereft of the promised miracle. The event is quickly recast with a new date, destination, or interpretation for them to cling to. Having failed, prophecy morphs and 2012 will be re-skinned to save the New Agers from having to face up to failure. Pinchbeck in the skin of Daniken in the skin of Sitchen in the skin of the next pretender. This is why we need to hold up this still smoking mirror, show them the knife.

Our own actions, as magicians and witches, must also confront this mirror and blade. In wider culture, this is how we are often seen. We too can be found engaging in the worst kind of self-absorption, a project of self-deification that is more pop psychology and atomised consumer narcissism than fierce path. The obsession with the perfection of the self is the shiny surface of our corrupt capitalist cult. It does not challenge power. Evolution does not occur through a passive sense of entitlement, or the acquisition of trinkets, or grades. It requires more radical work. Our hands need to get dirtier.   

We too can be guilty of cultural appropriation, personality cultism, pyramid schemes and empty promises. It is idiotic and insulting to make claims of special knowledge over other peoples' traditions.

In celebrating, no,  insisting on the death of the New Age on this pivotal date we can take stock rather than being part of another bahktun of empty platitudes and future promises. Let us understand that the New Age is spiritual froth, the scum on the surface of a toxic industrial culture. It is a warning sign, not a new life-form. Yes, there are well meaning people involved. Yes,  it is easy to parody the New Agers, but at the very least they know that something is very badly wrong. So too does our culture, shifting uneasily as the storm fronts smash into the coasts, the rivers burst, the crops fail. People will ask magicians to explain what is wrong, and our answers better make more sense than cheap talk about ‘an awakening,’ or suggestions to cultivate our own sense of power in the grip of growing powerlessness.  

So are we any different?

Where we differ from the New Age is that magic and witchcraft must be grounded in our relationship with the land, with community, with nature. Stating this has been ‘unfashionable’ for those who wish to exist in a bubble where the spirits that they talk with are not embedded in the physical world but are fragments of their psyches. This is not a position that our ancestors would recognise, we are part of a continuum, a continuum which is being raped and destroyed. This must be our focus.

The idea that personal work has no wider context or connection is a vain, alienated and ineffective way to approach magic and witchcraft. We have responsibilities, and it is time that we grew into them. Any other approach is as deluded as any crystal healing dolphinology, it just chooses a darker wardrobe and accessory set.   

To do this we are engaged in a grand project, namely the re-connection with the Western Tradition.  Not the theft of culture, the magpie imaginings, the post-modern anything goes. We have serious work to do, and that goes beyond the studying of our navel chakras. We need to understand ancestry, land, spirit as a living system which must be defended with tooth and claw. This vital sense of animism is what must animate us. Our proof must be our work, not our unfulfilled dreams, but in living mythically, in embodied action.

And as for the children of the Maize, there is this hope. Standing  in the same dawn as the New Agers. Throughout Chiapas the Zapatistas mark the date, anonymous, masked and brave. This is witchcraft, the example which we too must follow. If this is the New Age, then it will be one of turmoil, of blood, of revolutionary change. We must not make the same mistake again.

Happy New Year.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Exu and the Mandragora

Worth drawing attention to some new Scarlet Imprint book reviews. These concern Exu and Mandragora respectively. Both important and very different works given detailed peer reviews.

Exu and the Quimbanda of Night and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is getting a rapturous response. The hardback Caveira edition is in stock, the fine Mor edition will ship in the New Year and we have just made the paperback and digital Bibliotheque Rouge versions available.

An important book, which together with Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila provide the most detailed view of Quimbanda available in the English language.

Exu is reviewed here:

Mandragora is now making it onto University reading lists. This exonerates those of us who understand the power of poetry in ritual and magic.
Arguably one of our most beautiful books it is getting the kind of reviews online that make people reconsider the importance of the word.


 Mandragora is reviewed here:

A previous review here:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Exu and eclipses

Exu and the Quimbanda of Night and Fire by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is now shipping.

This has not been an easy book, with the sewing machine at the printer breaking and causing a snarl up at the busiest time of the year. It is one of the perils of publishing these kind of books. They tend to come in their own good time. 

Our thanks for your patience with the delay and to the professionalism of our printer who expedited the situation as quickly as humanly possible.

All is now in order, with the pre-ordered copies now all in the post and the book blocks for the fine edition with our binder. The fine edition will ship in the New Year.

If you have not yet ordered, Exu can be found residing here:

For now, here are the pictures of the hardback edition taken after a long day of packing and posting. Hope that you all enjoy the book.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Eye of Night

A talk given by Alkistis Dimech on All Souls' Day 2012, for the Day of the Dead organised by the Occult Consultancy, Glastonbury, UK.

'The Eye of Night' is an introduction to the goetic spirit Bune, one of the necromantic specialists of the European spirit tradition, whose relationship with Hekate and the bacchanal of Hades is explored.
The methodology of emblematic decipherment is given, whereby the sorceror and spirit commune in the realm of vision and dream.

Matters covered include orientation in ritual and land, the katabasis or descent to the underworld, and menstrual and lunar cycles. Finally, some pointers are given for the construction of a dream vessel, as both shrine and ship for navigating the lunar mysteries.

The talk presents material that will be covered in greater depth in our forthcoming work on the Ars Goetia, due late 2013.

Field recording courtesy of Al Cummins.

The Ship of Death
D H Lawrence

Part V

Build then the ship of death, for you must take
the longest journey, to oblivion.

And die the death, the long and painful death
that lies between the old self and the new.

Already our bodies are fallen, bruised, badly bruised,
already our souls are oozing through the exit
of the cruel bruise.

Already the dark and endless ocean of the end
is washing in through the breaches of our wounds,
already the flood is upon us.

Oh build your ship of death, your little ark
and furnish it with food, with little cakes, and wine
for the dark flight down oblivion.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cutting the head off the snake

Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. We engage in this self-interrogation on a regular basis and have come to the decision to leave facebook, the maw that rapaciously devours online traffic, a memetic infestation which trivialises the numinous and significantly alters behaviour patterns for the worse. Facebook in particular is choking under the weight of content, and awaits the same inexorable fate as myspace before it and no doubt diaspora next.

As we have previously stated, without Scarlet Imprint we would choose not to have any personal online profile at all. As such we have a duty to Her, the daemons, spirits and our authors to get the work out for the serious participants in the occult community. We will continue to maintain an online presence, as a necessary evil. Our friends are scattered like stars, and online has been essential for us to make these connections. We are fortunate to say that many of the best practitioners we know have no online profile, and would suggest that those who are most vocal online should perhaps have their claims taken with a pinch of salt.  

The pernicious rise and ubiquity of 'social media' is an important thing for us to consider if we take our path seriously, meaning that it does not simply become another element in what Guy Debord called 'the Spectacle' or feed into what has been called the commodification of occulture.

Advertising has long held that the mind can only concurrently hold seven pieces of information, based on George Miller's work in Princeton in the 1950s. As such all advertising is designed to carpet bomb you into submission by displacing every other competing product until you believe that the message of the advertiser is your own genuine thought. Online this strategy has contributed to a ceaseless churn of ill-disguised commercial messages, sock puppets and blank-eyed repeaters. Were this simply the ugly face of  monolithic corporate brands we could filter it out, ad-bust, culture jam, derive. These remain important strategies against Burroughsian agents of control, but they are not enough.

Recent work on the function of human memory suggests that rather than seven pieces of information we can hold three or four. This is linked to a concept called cognitive load. Cognitive load is the amount of information entering our minds at any given instant. Facebook and its ilk place a phenomenal amount of cognitive load on us, as the advertisers want their information to be one of those three or four pieces. Inevitably that means that they dial up the 'salt, sugar and fat' to make their content more compelling to our submerged drives. The same occurs in the occult, typically with claims of darker, more powerful, more complex, more elite, which have to compete with the corporate messages for mental space. Everything becomes dumbed down.

The effect of cognitive load is that our working memory and our intellectual capacity are degraded. The internet is making you stupider, stupid. However much coffee you drink (the legal working stimulant of choice) you become more absent-minded and have what are the 'senior moments' that your elderly parents do. What was I  just doing?

This should make you very concerned whether as a magician you aspire to the powers of the Sphinx, to Know, Will, Dare and Keep Silent. Or as a witch you seek to build what Paul Huson calls the Witches' Pyramid of Imagination, Will, Secrecy and Faith. Or if you simply wish to be in control of your own mind.

All of these elements are being catastrophically eroded by digital culture.

We would suggest that one way to cultivate these abilities is to disconnect from all media and experience the intimacy of reading a book, taking paint to canvas, dancing with the spirits of nature. These are after all, magical actions in a culture that is becoming progressively less present and more intrusive.

The commercialisation of the free internet has been decried by hacktivists, geeks and alternative thinkers. Cyber terrorism and piracy are being used to corral the frontier, identities pinned down and anonymity anathematised. This is widely understood. However, the latest stage is more akin to Stockholm Syndrome. Rather than resisting the commercialisation, the denizens of the internet are rushing to commodify themselves. In this model every man and every woman is not a Star, but a celebrity which can be defined as 'famous without any identifiable talent.' This is due to the external pressures of a capitalist culture in its death throes, devouring the last natural resources with its snapping jaws, and an internal mechanism known as 'like.'

'Like' is a behaviour modifying feedback loop. It gives an intangible reward for commodifying and digitising your lived experiences. This costs the corporate owners of social media nothing, it is the holy grail of 'free content.' These are addictive empty calories to those who live their lives in isolated cube farms, disfunctional relationships and under chronic low level stress. 'Like' is a behaviour modifier in that it rewards you for revealing more and more, from the banality of your breakfast choice, to your new haircut, to what you look like in the shower. All of this is imperishable data for the advertising industry and security state. It is a feedback loop in that it rewards certain choices and punishes others in a 24-7 popularity contest to be one of those three or four thoughts in the incessant media churn. It is molding you like wet clay.

The concept of social media is a lie. However much content you feed into the machine, it will not replicate the barest realities of what it means to be human. It is the worst kind of shorthand, a butchered and banal txt speak, not a refined and seemingly effortless haiku. You are mediated by the screen which promises to reveal all but in truth reveals less and less meaning. This all fed into our latest decision taken on returning from the woods with yellow gold leaves and dusk and stands of mushrooms which replaced the ones of the week before, skirts burned into inky inversions by the same invisible fire that lit the trees. 

We would suggest that your practice would benefit if you get the hell out of it, or at least minimise your exposure to the cognitive load. This is what we attempt to do, whilst still selling enough books to survive, and making sure that the right people come across our work. 

Occulture is no different to any other content. It rarely resides in a Tower apart, lined protectively with decent books properly bound. Its exponents are as flawed, beautiful, hopeless, as anyone. When you take a picture of your altar, your fetishes, your ritual site, your graveyard, your circle, when you announce to the world that you are about to do a working then you are almost always trivialising the art. This signalling is done for many reasons, and some of them commendable. It is difficult when you are as socially isolated as many practitioners are, and, in lieu of real community, seek it online. It is worth keeping something back, rather than trading everything for approval. However initially secret, special, meaningful, it becomes product, exchanged by others in the absence of real connections. It limits.

When we entitled this blog 'cutting the head off the snake' the reference is not to the social media, but to what we are all doing to ourselves. Our path, like many of yours, is not one of renunciation of the world, but engagement in it. This should not be taken as a blanket rejection of the opportunities that the online world presents, but a reminder that these must be balanced against the threats it contains. This is not a unabomber manifesto, just a timely reminder of the necessity to take back control.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Witchcraft and the Dead

A brace of upcoming Scarlet Imprint public appearances talking on Witchcraft and the Dead:

Second Annual Day of the Dead 
Saturday November 3
George and Pilgrim
Glastonbury UK

Hosted by the Saint Martha Botanica, the second iteration of this vibrant gathering takes place in the open gated New Age asylum that is Glastonbury.

The occult re-conquest continues with Jake Stratton-Kent, Josephine McCarthy and Stuart Littlejohn amongst the speakers. We are also delighted that our friends at Hadean Press will be making the trip over from France.

Alkistis Dimech will be speaking on necromancy and dream work with a focus on the Goetic spirit Bune. This is another element of Abominations our major reformation of the Goetia, which had been slated for publication this year but has been delayed by our commitment to other mansuscripts and the sheer size of the task, now in it's fifth year of work. Abominations is now due in 2013.  

The Day of the Dead is a well attended friendly affair, and the number of tickets are limited, so worth getting yours very soon.

Official webpage and tickets can be had here:

Facebook link for those chained to the tyranny of social media

Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft
Saturday November 10
The Wellington Hotel

We continue to support the work of the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall an essential resource for the magical, witchcraft and pagan communuty. This event is for Friends of the museum only, but membership can be purchased on the day.
Peter Grey is amongst the invited speakers for the AGM and get together this year and will be giving a talk entitled To the Sabbath. Joesphine McCarthy will be talking on necromancy, Damh the Bard on Druidry with Graham King showing a film on Men, Magic and Museums.
The day starts at ten in the morning, runs through til four and continues in the bar after the agm until a boozy midnight chimes. For those making the long journey West, there is an informal meet up on the Friday from 8pm at the Wellington bar.

In related news Sitting Now are cutting the footage from our Pleasure Dome event this Summer, which we hope to share with you soon.

Friday, 21 September 2012

New title: Exu and the Quimbanda of Night and Fire

As we reach the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere we announce our newest title, now available to pre-order.

Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire, is the strong companion to Pomba Gira and together with her gives the most complete account of this sorcerous cult. This is an encyclopaedic study of the devilish opposer.

Full details here:

Exu is the fusion of Umbanda, Angolan sorcery, European demonology and Kardec's spiritsm, erupting in a uniquely Brazilian cult of practical magical action. Spells, workings, hierarchies and origins are all given in detail. This is an essential text for students of the grimoires, Satanism and Traditional Witchcraft, as well as those drawn to, or working within, the cults of Quimbanda, Candomble, Santeria, Palo Mayombe and the ATRs. Quimbanda is a living tradition that gets results. It is a massive storehouse of magical lore, heresies and history which has absorbed aspects of Goetia, Grimorium Verum, Red Dragon and even Huysman's La Bas.

Frisvold is an intiate and gives an insider's view, drawing upon his years of experience in the cult. With access to texts, manuscripts and personal testimony, this is the most definitive work on Exu available in English. His previous works have gained acclaim amongst the most demanding of critics, those within the cult itself. 

The origin of Exu is explored from the iconic Baphomet of Eliphas Levi and the influence of St Cyprian the patron saint of necromancers, back to Umbanda and the traditional African religions. Exu revels in a unique heritage that encompasses a Gnostic account of the crucifixion mystery, the concealed nature of St Michael Archangel and the native Shamanism of the Caboclos. A forceful spirit, Exu presides over the kingdom of the world, and offers a fierce path for those that would have him as companion. He asks, what does it mean to be a man?

The Seven Legions of Exus are 'hot' spirits, and their work is considered black magic. The perils of this work are given, with the dangers of obsession by the Qlippoth and vampirism described. Guidance is offered and the path to ascension shown. This is a mature understanding forged in night and fire.

An octavo book of 336 pp illustrated with ten portraits of Exu in pen and ink by Enoque Zedro, and over 120 pontos riscados/seals.
Explicit workings for good and ill, a herbarium and details of offerings, powders and baths and songs make this an essential resource. Frisvold also discusses the fearsome Exu Mor for the first time, a subject not treated in his previous works.

The standard Caveira edition
769 exemplars

The boards are dressed in black moire cloth with a sunken letterpress panel depicting Exu Caveira.
Head and tails bands, archival quality paper, textured red endpapers.

£44 plus postage
UK pre-order
European pre-order
USA, Canada and Worldwide pre-order
(The standard hardback is expected to ship by All Souls Day)

The fine bound Mor edition
70 exemplars

Full black goatskin, extravagantly blind stamped with tridents about a gilt medallion heart.
Raised bands on spine, sombre marbled endpapers, ribboned, slipcased and reeking of cigar smoke and iron.

£200 plus secure postage

Fine edition is now Sold Out

(Bibliotheque Rouge
paperback and digital (epub and mobi) editions will also be available in due course.)

Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is an anthropologist and psychologist who over the course of the last fifteen years been studying, both academically and practically, African and Afro-derived cults in the New World. This has led to a multiplicity of initiations into Vodou, both from Benin and Haiti, Santeria, Kimbanda, Palo Mayombe and Ifá. He belongs to the council of elders in the Ogboni society of Abeokuta, Nigeria. He has for the last decade lived in Brazil where his studies and involvement in traditional forms of metaphysics, faith, cult and witchcraft is a constant theme in his life.

His previous works with Scarlet Imprint are Pomba Gira & the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila, and Palo Mayombe - The Garden of Blood & Bones and an illuminating essay on Ifa in At the Crossroads.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

At the Crossroads- Living Traditions Review

 Review courtesy of Living Traditions magazine: 
At the Crossroads has been released in various editions including eight hundred cloth bound editions and sixty four in goatskin. While Scarlet Imprint is releasing many of their books in ebook format (pdf only), I recommend this one in hardback as it is superbly presently, profusely illustrated with many images in colour and simply beautiful to hold and read. There is no paperback edition of this book due to its versized format. 

The concept of the crossroads is pregnant with meaning; in traditional cultures the boundaries of a culture marked the line between safety and danger, outside the boundary was where witches, sorcerers, trolls and wild spirits lived;it was the world of the untamed. Where two boundaries crossed creating a crossroads this was considered a place of immense power and danger, prisoners and criminals were hung at the crossroads and it was considered the location for evoking the devil himself during the medieval period. In pre-Christian times where leylines crossed was a major point of power and such connections covered the whole of England and can also found in many other countries. 

At the same time at the interface of cultures is the crossroads where creativity looms. There is so many exciting developments at that nebulous line where one culture meets and intermingles from another, whether we consider Mithraism or Gnosticism or even the hybrid cunning traditions which resulted from Christian and Pagan contact the results are challenging and significant. There is always a fine line between organic contact and syncretism, isolationism and appreciating where traditions touch, merge and create a living culture of magic and sorcery. These essays explore traditions at the crossroads and offer many traditions that we may not at first even consider. 

Folk traditions and the Solomonic Revival opens this work by exploring the connections between the worldview of the grimoires and various forms of traditional African magical practise. Gone is the psychological view of modern magic which reduced the gods to complexes and archetypes and advocated is a return to the old ways of appreciating the spirits as they really are. It is not a matter of cultural misappropriation but being open to going beyond the narrow blinkers of the Western Mystery Tradition which is sadly locked primarily within the outdated Golden Dawn worldview. By examining folk traditions we can appreciate a new way of practicing magic which will open a new world or us. 

The article on necromancy is a real eye opener. Necromancy is a subject too often ignored in western magic and relegated to being part of spiritualism which is seen as somehow less value as an occult practise. The reality is that necromancy was an intricate part of all the pre-Christian traditions and for that reason alone we should reappraise its value and use. Since the grimoire tradition had its ultimate origin in the Hellenistic traditions necromancy was of far greatest significance than many modern magicians locked in the Kabbalistic headset have noticed. Historically the spirits of the dead became demonised and replaced with hierarchies of fallen angels, demons and forces of evil and destruction. 

At the Crossroads continues examining specific traditions as Ifa and offering a truly engrossing essay on the history of the Ju Ju discussing all manner of Voudoun, Witchcraft, Santeria and Goetia. There is so much in this volume that is hard to discuss it all, there is lots of coverage of diverse traditions ranging from Santeria to Grimoire magick and a deep understanding of the intersection between traditions especially the new evolving understanding of the relationships between the Goetia, Hellenistic sorcery and African Tradition religions. At the Crossroads is also interspersed with superb poetry.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A forking of paths

 Modern Witchcraft - Building a future from history is a grand and ambitious theme for a one day conference. It is to the credit of the Cenre For Pagan Studies that they posed the question. My intuition is that the day, however unifying in theme will in time be recognised as less cauldron and more forking of paths.

This observation should not be taken as denigrating the event in any way, which was professionally run, well attended and with erudite presentations. I am not going to give a blow by blow account of the proceedings either. What concerns me is the ideas and the currents that I can ascertain stirring beneath the surface of witchcraft. It is a witchcraft we are passionately drawn to in our own individual ways, a crucial point which I will return to.

For a forking of paths to occur, there must first be a coming together and this truly was. Wicca is assessing itself, older, hopefully wiser, and paradoxically more naked than it has ever been. This is a witchcraft that has accepted Triumph of the Moon, and the disenchantment, even auto da fe of some of its most cherished myths. It is a witchcraft that is literate, self-aware and diverse. Many traditions, covens and approaches were present. Those who only know the digital shadow of Wicca, or view it in absentia as Traditional British Witchcraft, may be unaware of the dilemma which I wish to expose, not with the supposed candour of the tabloid press that Doreen Valiente and the Pagan Front/Federation battled against, but with clearer and less salacious motivation. 

Rufus Harrington summed up the problem, he mused wistfully on the romantic ideals that drew him to Wicca, the ideas of the persecution, the revolutionary opposition and yes, the sexual frisson. All these seem absent in the Modern Pagan Witchcraft that is now being proposed as orthodoxy, if not as absolute then certainly as the dominant strand. They have become haraam. This is in no small part due to the work of Ronald Hutton, whom the day honoured. His approach placed him at odds with both the academic establishment and entrenched ideas within the pagan community. To quote the metpahor used by Rufus, both are fearsome dragons which he poked with pointy sticks. Hutton has prevailed and it was his vision that the day articulated. We still witness some unpleasant personal attacks on Ronald Hutton, but he remains profoundly grounded, approachable and obviously joyful. As the only celebrity paganism has, and with obvious charisma (weirdly enhanced by his somewhat Austin Powers sartorial splendour), it would be easy for him to fall foul of egotism. This is not the case. He is a credit to his professions. I simply thoroughly disagree with his conclusions about the way that witchcraft should proceed into the future, which does not impute upon his scholarship of the past.    
Hutton in attacking the foundation myths is not engaged in a deliberate project of disenchantment. Far from it. He has a solution as well as a critique. For him, modern pagan witchcraft is the flower of English culture and history. It draws upon the mythic histories and stories which are embedded in the land. He names Kipling, Shelley, Swinburne (and many an holy bard) as part of our lineage. He sees beauty in ritual and the survival of an hermetic knowledge cloistered in our academies. It is a compelling narrative, and beautifully told. He proposes that it is in the artistry of our ritual, our imprecation of the Goddess, our drawing down, that we can be accepted as part of culture.

It is here however that the roads fork, and in my approach to witchcraft, definitively. Hutton wants us to step away from the sense of victimhood and injustice of a witchcraft that defines itself by the trial records of the inquisition. We are not to be defined by the torments inflicted by the hounds of god, nor the propaganda of curse and blight. The witch has been set up, rather like the Monty Python scene in the Holy Grail:

We are not, according to Hutton, to define ourselves in opposition, or to demonstrate our social difference, but should instead join the inter-faith family. I reject this as anathema. We stand outside.

The solution of Ronald Hutton is that we become the fully fledged form of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Yet, where are the Shelleys, the Swinburnes, the great artists? They seem conspicuously absent on the modern scene. A few fantasy writers, however gifted in their genre, does not make a compelling case.

Why should we accept a religious paganism as our future over the operative witchcraft which was the stock in trade of our predecessors, for both good and ill?

Our culture has not embraced paganism or witchcraft, it has simply stopped openly persecuting it. We were given examples during the day of how Doreen Valiente and the PF worked tirelessly to acheive this respectable status for us. However, this is an argument articulated in a total cultural vacuum. Though they no doubt had an impact, the wider disenchantment of culture is a process of mono-cultural corporate capitalism. The modern world simply does not care about us. The witch hunt has turned on Islam in search of a  'demonic' conspiracy. The value system is simply the bottom line. We are portrayed as harmless cranks for the most part and trotted out at Halloween for a cheap joke. The danger, the fire, the frisson that Rufus Harrington remembered is becoming just that, a memory.

Hutton artfully gave examples of how the same historical evidence can be read to reveal contradictory meanings. So here is mine. Modern Pagan Witchcraft as it is being proposed seems to bear no relationship to Witchcraft itself.

The label 'Pagan' was initially adapted as an umbrella term by the 'Pagan' Front BEFORE anyone was self-identifying as pagan. Now we have a large number of people defining themselves as pagan ministered to by a small network of initiatory covens. The number of covens is collapsing as formal initiation falls away. This was attested to on the day by an Alexandrian initiate, who dared to suggest that the rise of the hedgewitches and the eclectics was leading to a witchcraft so diffuse as to be meaningless, (he was more circumspect in expressing it) but I have heard this complaint from many quarters and from within many lineages.

Far from being healthy, the argument could be made that modern pagan witchcraft is already on the wane. The lack of fire is evident in the dearth of young people at this, and many other events. Modern pagan witchcraft seems irrelevant to the concerns of their lives, it is tangential to their struggles, which are about to become immeasurably harder. 

We are not in the midst of an extinction crisis, or the death of the oceans, we are far past the tipping point. Witchcraft must respond to this or it is empty escapism. I have been assertive in expressing this and will continue to do so, see more  here and the blog entry Question 13. Our future is not one of pastoral bliss, but of industrial collapse, famine and war. This future is far nearer than we dread. We are in crisis, ecological, social, political and spiritual: yet I see precious little of this communicated in the world of witchcraft, which in assessing the legacy of the great and good of its founders risks becoming irrelevant in the here and now.

My lineage is diffferent, and in keeping with the stated position of Ronald Hutton, equally viable. For me Witchcraft is neither 'pagan' nor a 'religion'. It is explicitly grounded in opposition, revolution, the land, the European spirit tradition, and yes, sex, drugs and ecstasy. It does not apologise. It is outside of the mainstream culture which is raping and destroying the world. It fights back.

There is another more uncomfortable history which we should not excise. The witch or shaman is an ambivalent figure. They break taboos. They go to places that others cannot, and miraculously return. They curse and kill as well as cure. You should be afraid of them.

This is why the current generation are looking to a supposedly Traditional Craft for their answers rather than seeking out Wiccan covens.This is why we are publishing books about Brazilian and Cuban witchcraft that have a living tradition of effective magic. This is why we are looking again to the grimoires and a spirit tradition in the West which stretches back to the Goes and the ancient world.

 I would prefer witches rediscovered Jules Michelet and encountered the work of Jack Parsons and their transformative and transgressive power, rather than trading it in for harmless coexistence with a culture that is in catastrophic failure. (Those who have not come across Jack Parsons may enjoy the presentation I gave on the subject here, a talk I also gave at the PFSW.)

The elements which I define my witchcraft by seem to be as razed as the stubble fields of Autumn in the golden future of Roland Hutton. The road forks, but I hope that this parting can also be made in the manner of friends. My prediction is that the troublesome word 'witchcraft' will eventually be excised for the more accurate 'modern paganism' and will be pursued by those who choose that path. Initiated Wicca will follow the same arc of decline that Masonry has. I am delighted that people find meaning and beauty in their ritual. I was happy to give Ronald my enthusiastic applause, to celebrate the life and work of Doreen Valiente, to recognise the work that John Belham-Payne et al do. But we walk another way, more perilous, more fraught, and more cogent with our reading of history.     

These words are mine, as are any misunderstandings of the ideas presented by those who spoke.

Peter Grey

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

At the Crossroads- Fine Bound Compassed Edition

First glimpse of the fine bound Compassed Edition of At the Crossroads:

64 exemplars
Full leather charged with a stang swarmed by a quartet of blind debossed dancing devils.
Oxblood and iron custom marbled ends.
Gilt edges, ribboned, slipcased and finished to the highest standards.
£200 plus secure postage.

A few copies left:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

At the Crossroads - in stock and shippng

What happens when Western Magic intersects with the African Traditional and Diaspora religions?
The collision and fusion is documented in the work of sixteen magicians and artists whose approaches vary from the most traditional to the wildest avant garde in At the Crossroads.

At the Crossroads comprises extensive essays and artwork from:

Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold, Jake Stratton Kent, Aaron Leitch, Stephen Grasso, Michael Cecchetelli, Eric K Lerner, Kyle Fite, Richard Ward, Humberto Maggi, Drac Uber and Ivy Kerrigan, Ryan Valentine, Hagen Von Tulien, ConjureMan Ali, Chad Balthazar and Angela Edwards.

Spanning Santeria, Voudon, Palo and Conjure, to the Grimoires, Alchemy, Cunning Craft and the Greek Magical Papyri, there are a staggering diversity of approaches to consider.

This collection answers the question about what the future shape of magic will be with living examples of practice, ritual and art.

Whether you agree with all of the strategies employed or not, what is certain is that this process is accelerating and unstoppable.

We find ourselves at the crossroads.

At the Crossroads
is a small quarto book of 208pp.
Extensively illustrated in both colour and black and white.
Bound in a black and white cloth with blood red blocking.

The standard Crossed edition costs £44 plus postage.

(All pre-ordered copies of the standard hardback are now being prepared and sent.)

The fine Compassed edition is in the process of being bound.
Full leather charged with a stang swarmed by a quartet of blind debossed dancing devils.
Oxblood and iron custom marbled ends.
Gilt edges, ribboned, slipcased and finished to the highest standards.

The fine edition costs £200 plus secure postage.
(We would strongly suggest reserving and pre-ordering your fine edition now, if you have not already done so.)

Other Scarlet Imprint News:

A discussion and review of JSK's Geosophia and True Grimoire has been posted here:
'All of these works are brilliantly written, researched and represent a possible new wave in the theory and practice of Goetic Magick'

Sunday, 5 August 2012

'A bloody big bomb' - Review of Mandragora

In depth review of Scarlet Imprint's Mandragora courtesy of Phil Legard's Larkfall blog:

“Poetry is a very stupid thing to be good at. Poems are basically like dreams – something that everybody likes to tell other people but nobody actually cares about when it’s not their own.”
– Nadine

“It’s magic – it’s not about magic, it’s not like magic: It IS magic. It’s real magic. [...] Incantations, spells, ceremonies, rituals – what are they? They’re poems. So, what’s a poet? He’s a shaman, that’s what he is. A fucking good poem is a weapon. Not like a pop gun. It’s like a bomb. A bloody big bomb.” – Ted (Hughes)

Two quotes from fairly recent films – respectively Tiny Furniture and Sylvia – that perhaps sum up two different attitudes to poetry. We might even harbour both opinions: to me, something like David Jones’ The Tutelar of the Place  is a ‘bomb’ – a poem that, as Kafka so lucidly put it, is the axe to the frozen sea inside me – a violent, emotive force. On the other hand, I regret to say that most poetry I encounter – as with all art forms – unfortunately falls into the ‘boring dream’ category. It is a tortuous and hard won prize to be a poet, a title which many assume all too eagerly.

With this in mind, I’ll say it myself: the idea of an anthology of esoteric poetry is not an appealing one. Both esotericism and poetry  promise a glimpse into a world of experience beyond mundane reality, and yet – more often than not – come out as half-baked, cliché-ridden episodes of self-indulgence. In this respect it may be no mean feat for Scarlet Imprint to stir up excitement for Mandragora, their second anthology of esoteric poetry. Granted, it’s fairly easy to sell a new grimoire (- diabolical pyramid schemes that promise so much, yet often return so little) or to sell an anthology of essays (- at least a couple will be worth the entrance fee), but a volume dedicated to poetry is an altogether different matter.

So, having written the above, I am happy to report that Mandragora is an incredibly successful venture. This beautifully crafted – and weighty volume – is a  companion to 2010’s Datura. As such it demonstrates the publisher’s continuing commitment to the areas of magic and mysticism which they consider vital: an intellectual, aesthetic and ethical stance that sets Scarlet Imprint apart from a number of other contemporary imprints that declare themselves to be ‘talismanic’ publishers.
The work of the 48 poets anthologised here is complemented by nine substantial essays on historical, spiritual, artistic and magical approaches to poetry which should justify the price of the volume alone. It is the essays in particular that I’d like to concentrate on in this review. These pieces are diverse, covering Classical, Celtic, and modern approaches to poetry, magic and esotericism. What is apparent is that they have so much in the way of a shared mythos that they complement one another beautifully: Hesiod, Orpheus, Amergin and – most importantly to me – the concept of divine frenzy – are discussed from different angles throughout.

The ideas of divine frenzy are a particular area of interest to me: they speak of visionary states, the filling of the soul by something beyond human limitations and compelling the receiver to act upon them in some way. The frenzies had an ambiguous place in the Classical psyche: Eros was a curse, a malady and madness sent from the gods, which would drive even the most rational man to insane feats. Yet it could also inspire great poetry and move the soul to express transcendent truths, most often through the medium of poetry. Here, poetry is the language of the soul powerfully moved or in ecstasy. In the early 16th century, the frenzies were rehabilitated and incorporated into the Hermetic patchwork of Renaissance magic by Pico della Mirandola, his contemporary Lodovico Lazarelli, and latterly in the works of Cornelius Agrippa and Giordano Bruno.

In Mandragora the frenzies, of furores, appear early on in P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ beautiful essay The Poet as God-Seducer. Grounded in Celtic and Classical approaches to poetry, Lupus’ essay paints an extraordinary picture of the antique poet as a feared and respected member of society – as capable of destroying the reputation of a man with well chosen words as he is of inspiring with the visionary furore of divine love. I was initially dubious about the subtitle of the book: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poesis, but this opening essay makes the connection between poesis (begetting, or bringing forth) and poetry explicit: in the Greek world the poeta is the maker, and in Anglo-Saxon he is the shaper, or scop. This essay is a perfect introduction to poetry in the ancient world, and also an explanation of why poetry was and – most vitally – is relevant. Lupus also contributes a poem, Hadrianus Exclusus, which speaks with the voice of Hadrian as a romantic bond and invocation to his favourite, Antinous. It is an evocative and powerful piece, provoking parallels with both Robert Graves’ analeptic channelings of the Roman world, and the seership evidenced in David Jones’ poems of Roman Britain.

My own essay, Black Venus and Wise Hermes looks at a fairly wide range of magical poetry – including violent hymns of compulsion in the Greek magical papyri, the exposition of ritual poetry in the tradition of Agrippa as found in the Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer attributed to John Dee, a somewhat more naive charm found in the Folger manuscript, and the role of poetry in the initiatory furores of Lodovico Lazzarelli.

Title page and poetic epigram from Libellus Veneri Nigro Sacer, of Tuba Veneris (From the Warburg Institute)
It falls to Al Cummins to bring us to the modern age with his essay On Cut Up. The very term, cut up, will make most readers immediately think of the work of William S. Burroughs, whose relevance to the magical subculture has been discussed since the 70s. More interestingly, Cummins also talks about the relationship between cut-up, divination, aleatoric art and our own inner lives, as well as the relevance of the technique to the manifold streams of modern poetry, in particular Yeats. I was also pleased to see a discussion of Jeff Noon’s Cobralingus techniques, which borrowed from music production in viewing words and poetry as an audio stream, fed through a number of effects pedals and processes. I remember being particularly drawn to this approach in the late 90s and writing many pieces with the technique – and, in the light of an emergent element of my own research regarding the reclaimation of the poetry of everyday speech, a reminder of the Cobralingus technique is timely.

Noon, Cobralingus 14
Peter Grey contributes an enlightened overview of Ted Hughes’ work, a man who spoke with the violence of frenzy, closely followed anthropological work on shamanism, believed in the literal power of words (for example, his belief that he could call animals by making poems in their likeness) and – like Kathleen Raine – recognised the relevance of the occult, Neoplatonic inheritance laid at the feet of the poet and the challenge of keeping it a vital, powerful force in the present day, particularly in the face of critical misapprehension.

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule shares Hughes’ opinion: [verse] is made to be spoken aloud … its rhythms only come to life when it is read aloud. This discussion of  poetry in the context of his ritual theatre performances, this is an amusing, readable and practical piece of work, drawing upon the experience of performing poetry through anecdote and reflection, lifting rhythm, voice and movement from the page and into the world of action.

The Celtic world emerges once more in Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Burying the Poet, a meditation on the chthonic, otherworldly prizes of poetry in Celtic antiquity. Poetic talent – imbas – is here a gift from the underworld, of fairy companions, Brigid and Ogma, cauldrons of inspiration, dream-incubation and prophecy. The frenzies can well up from below, as often as they fall from above.

Automatic writing by Fernando Pessoa (Wikimedia Commons)
I had never encountered Fernando Pessoa until coming across José Leitão’s essay on this many-faced enigma, a Renaissance man of the early 20th century who declared: It is my wish to be a creator of myths, which is the highest mystery that any member of humanity may operate. He was poet, philosopher, critic, astrologer, experimenter with automatic writing and associate of Aleister Crowley. Leitão presents Pessoa and his philosophy in magical terms: Pessoa the magus – or perhaps Pessoa the Medium – commanding or giving body to a number of heteronymous spirit-personalities (Alvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis, Alberto Caeiro), whose nativities it seems were intimately worked out by Pessoa. A fascinating poet and personality and, as he writes himself, a lord
Of interbeings, of that part of us
That lies between our waking and our sleep,
Between our silence and our speech, between
Us and the consciousness of us …
Following a exploration of the birth-charts of Peossoa’s heteronymical personas, Jimmy T. Kirkbride’s Houses of Death opens with a compact history of magic from antiquity to the present day. I feel that this would perhaps have been better integrated into the author’s main argument: that magical literature has been ignored by the modern science, but has been a vital catalyst for artistic movements. The profound subjects of what creativity actually is and how it fits in with art, science and spirituality, alongside how language and poetry – from the Psalms to the present – creates and transcends our reality are brought up, as is the possible grey area between them that poetry and magic may inhabit. However, the relationship of these topics and the vast panorama of magical and alchemical history detailed in the greater part of the essay is unfortunately not elucidated upon. This is a shame since Kirkbride is obviously a well-read, eloquent author whose grasp of his chosen subject is readily apparent.

The final essay is Michael Routery’s excellent The Head of Orpheus: Hesiod, Plato and the Muses, which perfectly complements the Lupus’ opening work in discussing the mythical and historical contexts of poetic inspiration and seership and placing them in relation to our present situation. Almost echoing Rowan Laurie chthonic inspiration the last words of this piece, and of the book itself are: Lives shift when we bring up the dark and shining gifts of the underworld.
The “dark and shining” poetic highlights in the volume are for me Christopher Greenchild’s The Names of Ancestors; T. Thorn Coyle’s After Amergin (opening: I am the shine of neon on black leather); Rebecca Buchanan’s Fragment Burge-Gottner 4.1; Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Lost Text; the aforementioned work of P. Sufenas Virius Lupus; Jessica Melusine’s The Whole Land Dancing; Shaun Johnson’s Haiku for the Goddess; Alison Leigh Lilly’s The Hunter and Jenne Micale’s Hymn to Proserpine (an old theme given new life).

Orpheus, Jean Delville (1867-1953)
The volume opens with a quote from Martin Heidegger, which I found personally meaningful since various strains of my own work have been converging on his conception of poetry and its relation to truth. However, to dwell on one particular fragment of the quote: poetry reveals the world. Given that all the poems here are written by people involved in esoteric pursuits of one form or another one intrinsic value of this volume is that it expresses the worlds, thoughts and feelings of practitioners. For those in pursuit of a phenomenology of magic, here is a rare glimpse into numerous souls.
Ruby Sara has done an admirable job editing and collating such a coherent volume from what would at first seem to many an impossibly diverse field. As the essays highlight there is a visionary, hidden, ancient steam running throughout poetry. Ted Hughes, Peter Redgrove and Robert Graves recognised it – and were spellbound by the goddess they discovered to confusion of their critics – and Kathleen Raine expressed it eloquently in her commentaries on diverse poets from William Blake to Edwin Muir. Mandragora affirms this tradition and confirms its value, relevance and power in the present.
Mandragora is available in hardback, paperback or Epub/Mobi from Scarlet Imprint.

Taken from  the original post here: at Phil Legard's literate and highly recommended blog.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Thunderbolt Pagodas

A Pleasure Dome was erected and inaugurated in Brighton on July 21. A deliberate artifice designed to create a moment out of time, and one which will endure.

We have accomplished our stated intent.

Finding a day that would work for us amdist the astrological carnage of the heavens was not easy, but we heralded the sun's entrance into Leo with the first day of Summer that anyone had seen. But then, we are no strangers to turmoil.

Brighton was perfectly lit for us. 

We offer our thanks to all those who participated in the masquerade.
Speakers, performers, dancers, actors, poets, authors, visionaries et al.
Something definitely happened and the effects will continue to be felt.

For those still watching askance from the sidelines, wondering whether something new is being born in magic and witchcraft, something renewed, this was living proof. Magic was not only talked about, it was demonstrated by people putting their practice on the line, the edges between performance and ritual blurring as the day gathered pace and flung us deeper into the night.

The events of the day were captured by and will be revealed in due course. But the prize in magic goes to those with persistence, those who make the physical journey and lend their bodies to the dance. You know who you are.

However, we want to include those on the other side of the oceans who could not be here and so the cinematic artefact is an important way for us to share with our absent friends.

Perhaps most telling is to look at the way in which the frames of those who came were tinted by the experience. People did not come to watch, they were all participants in the drama and transformed by it.

This very personal view of the day by Ivy Kerrigan really delighted us, and can be read here:

We are not interested in talking smack. There is a need for engaging directly. We come out of these events after months of planning and preparation empty-handed, but far richer for the experience.

In the tumult of maenads and madness we were unable to screen all of the films that we hoped. In lieu of that, here are a storm of images from our digital curator John Bradburn, that they may inspire others to paint in light.

Procession at Dawn (J Lee Maas, 

4 shorts by Stan Brakhage (Stan Brakhage 1967-75)

Astronaut Orphans (Julietta Triangular 2011).

TEASER 2 Astronaut Orphans from Julieta_triangular on Vimeo.

Soghoth (Diego Curubeto, unknown)

Mirror Animations (Harry Smith, 1960s)

Colour of Pomegranates (Sergei Parajanov, 1968).

Ah Pook is Here (Phillip Hunt, 1994)

 The Angelic Conversation (Derek Jarman 1985).

Dry Blood (Ethan Roberts, 2012). 

DRY BLOOD from Ethan Roberts on Vimeo.

Kustom Kar Kommandos (Kenneth Anger, 1970).

Kustom Kar Kommandos, (kenneth anger), by zohilof

OSSOSSWEEOSS! (Alan Lomax, 1953).

The Gathering (John Bradburn & Andy Paton 2012)

Decoder (Muscha, 1984)