Dave how did you first become involved in magick?
Early in my life, I alternated between magic and science. I first abandoned magic around the age of 4. My dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I replied: a magic wand, a real one, like Sooty’s got, one that can do real magic. My dad told me then that magic wasn’t real. I recall the moment precisely; we were facing a row of shops on a mundane street in the West London suburb I grew up in. At that point, something big happened inside me, and the next time I thought about that incident it was from the point of view of someone who had turned wholeheartedly towards science. Science represented power, and I had unknowingly launched myself into the mystery of the Faustian bargain.
The next milestone was reading a story about a shaman, the first time I’d come across the word, when I was about 10. I remember the book as The Silver Ghost, but years of on and off searching have not yielded the book. The boy in it saves the world through a kind of magical transformation and healing. Maybe it was all a dream, scripted by my subconscious; I identified strongly with the boy, and was sold on the romance of sorcery. Around that age, I did some telepathy experiments with 2 other kids. We actually got some results, when we gave up on words and images and tried it with instructions, like ‘Put your hand on the drainpipe.’
Later I read fantasy but my basic beliefs were those of a scientist. That lasted until my late teens, when LSD came into my life. A couple of incidents from those years stand out. I was watching my friend’s cat, which was stalking peacefully about at the other end of the room. Then something moved me to point at the cat, with a lazy, flicking gesture. This stuff, like light but all bent and twisted like lightning, came out of the tip of my index finger and arced across the room, hitting the cat. It looked exactly like the stuff that came out of the hands of sorcerers when they fought in Doctor Strange comics. It would just have been a drug hallucination but for the effect it had on the cat. It jumped two feet in the air and leaped out of the window. I was concerned for it and went over to look out; it was tearing off across the yard.
I found I could direct a related kind of energy during sex, round my own body or round my partner’s. On another occasion, I became convinced that there was a discarnate spirit in my room. Later, I realised that my girlfriend and I had created it by the emotional and sexual tension between us. So of course I read around magic and mysticism. Daoism attracted me, Buddhism didn’t. Crowley I couldn’t take seriously because all those high-falutin’ Golden Dawn titles seemed silly.
The momentum of that magical phase ran out, and I became a scientist again, this time as a career. But magic drew me on; doing a philosophy of science essay for my biophysics course, I realised and began to articulate how my philosophy of life was changing again. A couple of years later, I read Illuminatus!, and it opened my eyes to a multivalued view of the world in which magic was possible. It was the first book I ever read where magic could actually coexist with science, not be hived off into a fantasy world, like it is in Harry Potter, a narrative where magic is actually believable. I’d brought my two sides together and I was ready to start practicing magic.
After reading a few Crowley books and going along to a magical study group, I collided with Liber Null, and finally found something which inspired me to practice the technologies of psychic power.
What about the early days of the chaos current, what happened and what was your involvement?
In Leeds in the late seventies the notorious Sorcerer’s Apprentice used to have ‘coffee mornings’ every Saturday. That is how I met Ray Sherwin, Pete Carroll, Richard Bartle-Birtelli and other luminaries of the Northern scene. I was a founder member of the first chaos magic group I was in. We met in the woods near Pete Carroll’s place while he was living in East Morton, 1980-82. Pete moved to Bristol, Ray Sherwin returned from his travels and a new group started in the same area. This became known as the Circle of Chaos, though nobody called it that at the time. That group broke up in 1987, I worked solo for a few years then got involved in the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT) in its new incarnation as The Pact in 1991, following the awe-inspiring, life-changing experience of an IOT World Meeting.
How do you think magick generally and Chaos Magick specifically have changed since you first picked up a wand?
The people involved have a much more sophisticated, confident approach. And the goals are definitely more ambitious.
How does your writing link with your magick?
I tried writing about magic accurately, factually, the first few years I was a full-time magician. But it seemed like it would never find an audience because – it wasn’t actually believable! And writing about magic is problematic for another, connected reason – you need context to understand someone else’s magical experience. Either you know them very well, or they have to be a good communicator to get over the reality of magical experience. Otherwise, it’s just coincidence, technology, delusion, mysticism or whatever.
I started and stalled on a few novels. Part of one was published in Hyatt’s Rebels and Devils collection, 1995. The next fiction was the collection of five stories in my book Bright From the Well, 2008. These stories were based (loosely or closely) on Norse legends.
What was the process that led to you writing The Road to Thule?
My previous novels stalled because I never had a big enough theme for it to seem to be worth extending to novel length. Then at the World Runegild Moot in 2005, Edred Thorsson suggested we each might try writing about our ‘ideal worlds’. Although the idea was not directed at work for publication, I started making notes about what became the Kingdom of Wessex, writing for an imagined readership, and I realised that in order to make it interesting it had better not be a perfect society. Rather, it needed to be decidedly better in some ways than the present one but flawed and under pressure. So I had my big theme: A techno-magical dystopia, a flooded world, a neo-traditionalist, English Heathen society.
My other motivation for writing the novel was to write about magic, the real kind, sorcery, wizardry, runes, in a way which showed it as being a lot easier than it actually is, just like in a fantasy novel – but not as fantasy. Instead, the magic would come about via some vaguely believable technology, the becter. The novel is set in the 2170s, up and down the small nations of the British Isles, reduced to its highlands after global warming causes a 600 feet sea level rise. What energy generation is to be adopted is a key source of conflict, and a long-running war is driven by religious fanaticism.
The way I chose to hold the fabric of the Kingdom of Wessex together was song. This decision was inspired by the 1974 film The Wicker Man. That film is one of the great depictions of a functioning heathen society, and what makes it work so vividly is the use of songs, both traditional and specially written for the film. Some of the words of six songs are in the text of my novel. Altogether there are ten songs, and Ian Read/Fire and Ice will be recording them as an album. (To read excerpts and reviews and purchase The Road to Thule. For song lyrics and side-stories visit The Kingdom of Wessex on Facebook.)
What are you working on now in terms of writing?
Much of my magic is local, work for friends and members of the groups I work with. Much of the rest is to do with trying to set the world to rights. The novels are part of this culture-war magic.
My main writing project is the new novel The Cull. This is a prequel to The Road to Thule, probably for release next year. It answers questions such as: How did the Vatican get nuked? Writing fiction is such fun!
Thank you Dave Lee – JV