An Audience with Christina Oakley Harrington

I was fortunate to catch up with the wonderful Christina Oakley Harrington while at Treadwell’s Books for my second Psychogeography workshop.

Christina is Treadwell’s founder and presiding spirit. She was voraciously interested in spirituality and magic since childhood, and grew up in West Africa, Burma, and Chile, only moving to the West at the age of 15. In her early twenties she was heartened to discover Europe’s own native religious traditions, and has been a pagan ever since. A former academic, she left university life in 2001 to establish Treadwell’s. These days she serves as a consultant for programmes and projects but is usually at the shop somewhere during the week.

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Christina presents Golden Dawn magician Florence Farr

Here you can listen to the conversation that Christina and I had which ranges across the subjects of women in magic, the importance (or not) of visualization, the use of mescaline in witchcraft, the feminist history of psychedelics, post-modern (or metamodernist) magical paradigms and other stuff!

Enjoy!

Julian Vayne

An Audience with Charlotte Rodgers

Charlotte Rodgers is a writer, artist and magical person. She kindly agreed to tell Steve Dee more about her life and work.

SD: Could you tell us a little about your own magical background? (How you got into it.)

CR: I don’t think one’s intrinsic being changes much from early childhood, aside from layering up a load of behavioral baggage and experiences to obscure, and hopefully at times to enhance, our essential self. I always had a spiritual world view, highlighted by a personality that had a great deal of difficulty relating to others. At times, I lived with my grandmother where I was overexposed to fundamentalist Catholicism which I found fascinating; but I found the premise of good and evil made no sense to me (I was a precocious child… and looking back perhaps a bit ADD or sociopathic). As a child, I was obsessed with books, my microscope, astronomy, archaeology and mythology; constantly looking for other worlds that I could relate to as this one made no sense!

I was seven or so when I came across Man, Myth and Magic and it was like boom bang…this was IT!

I used to see colours and shapes and always believed in magic. I remember being about ten and walking home from the cinema with my little sister and telling her, ‘I’m a witch, watch… the lights at every crossing we come to will turn green when we approach them’… there were about seven I think on our walk home and indeed each one did turn green.

By age 12 I was into tarot and palmistry and started studying various magickal practices consciously. I also later studied Phenomenology of Religion for O levels and A levels and simply enough, was always searching for something.

As with inherent approaches to learning that tailor for individuals through hearing, seeing or experiencing, people have different ways of understanding their reality. Philosophical (relating to ideas) political (relating to structures) and spiritual (relating to ‘other’). A bit simplistic perhaps but it makes sense to me, and my frame for experience and perception is very much a spiritual one.

So, I’ve always been magical, and constantly been trying to understand and work with this, whilst trying to sort my life out on a mundane level.

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The Hermit by Charlotte Rodgers

You’ve worked in a few different traditions, could you tell us about those and which approaches you currently find most meaningful?

My answer for this is a continuation from the above in many ways. I’m not a group person in that I cannot cope with the structures and power plays that often deviate (some may say develop) a tradition and cause it to lose its original premise. Conversely, I love the inspirational buzz and play I get from working with a group. For a long time, there was a sense of ‘should do’ or ‘should be’ in my practice. I ‘should’ develop discipline in my practice by adhering to a certain tradition and following its rules, I ‘should’ validate myself by reading certain books or following the rules, though my essential magical self just loves to play and when I’m working with the right current, it’s a flow, a key to a lock.

I’m also no good with names and that is a big problem with some traditions… I just can’t get my head around identification of energies with certain titles… works in my head but my magickal self just wants to toss it all aside.

I immersed myself in Crowley’s teachings for many years. It was accessible at the time and very interesting. Parts of them I found very workable and at that time I felt that as a woman it gave me more validity than accepting more nature related witchcraft which came so naturally to me living in New Zealand and later in Asia. I was a member of a few groups, and seemed to work well with certain currents that though I didn’t relate to a specific named god or spirit form, say Set, I could relate to their essence and work incredibly well with them.  Later I was initiated into the Uttara Kaula and AMOOKOS which also made sense to me on many levels but I reached a point of self-confidence where I started stripping back, and realizing that my magic was an intuitive path, and I was trying to follow the rules of others, a method which had become counterproductive.

Some of the traditions that resonate for me, such as Haitian Voodoo or Santeria I’ve learned from and respect but take no further.  Others such as Bengali Folk Tantra press my buttons and made me realize my magic is incredibly simple.

I’m an animist and a generator of energy so whilst I can work well in many spheres, for me finding a tradition and structure had become a very human need to find a place amongst others, rather than finding the right practice for myself.

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Spirit House by Charlotte Rodgers

As an artist who works in a number of differing mediums, could you describe something of your artist process and how it may (or may not!) overlap with Magical work?

O the more I immerse myself in my art the more I realise that art and magic are the same; expressions that can be directed. I don’t plan anything that I do, just amass ingredients then when the time is right I go on automatic and channel the piece as it evolves. My creative process and magic run side by side, different facets of the same thing. The most conscious pieces that I make are charms, fetishes or elemental conductors and my larger pieces tend to be spirit houses or effect orientated portals, although often I don’t realise what I’ve done until it is completed and the piece tells me.

For a long time, I was primarily working with bones and remnants of death as they were the most obvious conduits to certain characteristics or properties, but as I realised that everything has memory, I started working more with discarded and found objects and what was contained within them.

In your (excellent) book The Bloody Sacrifice you explore the way in which practitioners use their bodies to explore and create change; how has your own work with the body evolved since its publication?

Hah! Hugely! I went through a very early menopause and my last period coincided with the completion of the book. Also, the book was written as my own blood was dealing with all the chemo that had been pumped into it to try and rid myself of hep C and which took about two years to be expelled (the treatment didn’t work).

Menopause is fascinating, and my energy is much more contained now. There is all the social stuff that goes with it… aging and perceived power loss etc., but in most ways my body is the strongest it has ever been.

I’m much more aware of the physical impact that magic has on me now, especially on my immune system (for people with long term hep c, your 50’s is often the age it can really kick off and become problematic) and work with that.

I’m more careful about my body at magical gatherings as I find my metabolic rate goes into overdrive (this used to happen to me years ago, when I did readings for people) and I lose way too much weight and get run down.

Yoga is more important than ever for me and dance is a necessary joy.

I still regularly have ritualised tattoo work done on myself but mainly I am aware of an integration of my magickal self and my physical self that I think is a combination of my past work and perhaps just growing older and stronger in myself.

In many ways, my art work is intensely physical in that I am channelling part of myself into the art to bind it together and need to keep my back, hands and shoulders strong… if I want to channel I need to work with my physicality simply enough.

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Family Dynamics (detail) by Charlotte Rodgers

Given your focus on the body and your use of animal remains in your Art, how well do you think contemporary Occultism is doing in its engagement with Death?

I’m not as much in the loop of what’s going on in the occult community as I was… It seems that rituals of death and burial have progressed hugely, although I still think there is a great need of support for pagans and magickal practitioners after they have ‘lost’ someone. The acceptance in Western based occultism of ancestor worship has helped a lot, but I think many feel their beliefs are challenged when someone they love dies and could do with support that is non-denominational and unconditional, but still essentially magickal.

There is still a fascination with darkness and death in certain sections of Occultism that is perhaps blinkered but that is the nature of working with taboo… easier to go for the dark and forbidden rather than something like unconditional love and joy! (I can say this I think because I’ve had that struggle myself!).

Over the last few years there have been some deaths of people who were incredibly important to me magickally, Michael Howard, Donald Kraig and David Blank. There have also been important practitioners who have died that I’ve not had direct personal involvement with and it is worth thinking how their lives and deaths have contributed to the growth and development of the present magickal current, and what changes will occur in it due to their loss.

Lastly, can I ask what your hopes are for the future evolution of both your Magical and Artist practice?

Now there’s a question. Recently I’ve felt a need to go slow (not my usual way!) and make no major decisions.

The world is very crazy with major changes going on, so treading careful seems to be the best option.

I’ve started worked more, both magickally and creatively, with rust and discarded modern objects, and finding with ways to integrate it with nature and ‘the old ways’ to bring forth a progressive evolution.

I’d briefly touched on this in 2011 when I integrated broken glass from the London riots and car accidents into sculptures trying to positively redirect the rage and impotence at injustice, that fuelled these riots.

Now it seems the right time to carry on with this modern alchemy!

Aside from that I’m in the process of a final edit of The Fulcrum Method, a divinatory system that I’ve created with Roberto Migliussi, and also organising a Summer Solstice based exhibition in Bath, ‘Rust, Blood and Bone’.

What I want in the long term and general sense? To carry on progressing with my art and magick, to carry on learning and to have fun.

I want to retain that joy in adventuring spiritually and creatively whilst not getting bogged down by games and infighting and power plays. I’d love to be able to make a living out of what I do, so I can focus all my attention on it and see how far I can take the journey, and to where.

Thanks very much Charlotte. SD.

To see more of Charlotte’s work visit her blog and gallery.

 

 

Sounds of the Secular Spirit

When Nikki and I wrote The Book of Baphomet we were both intent on exploring (amongst other things) the idea of the imminence of spirit. That’s why the book opens with a re-telling of the story of creation based on the latest scientific ideas. This account, rendered in prose poetry style, was for us the modem mythology of Baphomet; the story of how physics gives rise to chemistry, chemistry to biology and biology to awareness. Where the divine is situated not in an ex nihilo alien dimension, but right here, right now.

The scientific story of creation, as far as we know it in the early 21st century, is truly mind-boggling. A tale easily as vast, complex and dramatic as anything in the narratives of religion. Moreover this scientific story, like Baphomet, is forever incomplete and ramifying as new discoveries, in and through the world, are made.

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Space is big.

We can easily retell the scientific story in a way that meets our human need to recognise the sacred, the awesome. “We all have a thirst for wonder. It’s a deeply human quality” in the words of the great Carl Sagan (Peace Be Upon Him).

The Seven Secular Sermons are, for me, the most beautiful way I’ve yet encountered of poetically expressing the awesome truth of reality as science currently describes it. I’ve mentioned the project on this blog before and am enjoying immensely the emergence of each poem (or song, or meditation…the text could be these and many more things) as they are published here.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to interview Daniel Böttger, the author of the Sermons. At Daniel’s request Nikki Wyrd and I have made this recording of the First Sermon. Find yourself a nice bit of planet to hang out on, and have a listen.

“This meditation’s rhyming verse
describes a paradigm
of us inside this universe,
adrift in space and time.”

Enjoy!

JV

 

 

 

 

It’s All About Me

As heavy showers and hot bursts of sun turn the green into the gold of high summer here’s a little round up of some of the things the theblogofbaphomet team and our friends are up to at the moment…

In blog news we’re really pleased to have exceeded a quarter of a million page views of the blog itself, and over 3,000 likes on our Facebook page. We’re really pleased that, without using clickbait headlines or click farm antics, we’ve become one of the most popular chaos magic blogs on teh internetz, part of the ‘fourth wave’ of chaos magic (for more of which see below…).

In his professional life, Julian has been doing loads of work with big historical country houses (and hobnobbing with the landed gentry) helping them to develop new ways of engaging their visitors. Perhaps more significantly, Julian has also been the artistic muse of Nicola Claire-Lydon in her painting of Pan. Julian writes: “It’s always a delight and indeed an honour to inspire others. I’ve been fortune to be a model for Victoria Gugenheim, Matt Kaybryn (as Mercury in The Portals of Chaos) and more recently Nicola. Being painted in oils is a really powerful process, especially as Nicola is a close friend and we developed some ideas about the image (notably the way Pan’s horns are represented) together. I’m also especially pleased that Pan is available as a limited edition Giclée print, art card and, most wonderfully, emblazoned on a tea towel. My new mantra is ‘Lint Free, Scratch Free, Absorbent, Hygienic’.  😉 ”

Io Sauce Pan!

Io Sauce Pan!

Copies of Pan in all his many manifestations are available in the Another Green World gallery, Tintagel, Cornwall, contact details HERE.

Steve Dee continues his spiritual quest following the publication of his first solo work A Gnostic’s Progress – Magic and the Path of Awakening. Following the release of Steve’s heady fusion of Left-hand path queer-witchcraft sorcery, chaos magic and post-Christian (but not post-Christic) Gnosticism Steve was invited for a follow up interview (the first one is HERE) with Miguel Conner. Steve will also appear in a forthcoming interview with Morgana Sythove; check out Wiccan Rede (There’s a review of Chaos Craft there too).

 

Meanwhile Nikki has been diligently working on various publishing ventures. A Gnostic’s Progress was the second book from Ms Wyrd’s imprint The Universe Machine. As well as being sub-editor for Psypress UK Journal she has also been honoured to assist with assembling the references, proofing and copyediting the magnum opus of Infinity Foods founder and Chinese medicine man Peter Deadman. The book Live Well, Live Long looks set to become a seminal text on Chinese Traditional Medicine.

 

Up country (as we say in Devon) various festive fnords have been manifesting at Festival 23. None of the Blog of Baphomet crew were able to attend this year, alas, but Dave Lee and others were there representin’ for Current 23 in what turned out to be a sell-out and, from early reports, a deliciously Discordian event, which will hopefully manifest once again in 2018. Dave has also penned an important essay about the history of chaos magic (we’re currently enjoying the fourth wave of this esoteric approach). We’re hoping to include this in a forthcoming publication written (and illustrated) by current members of The Illuminates of Thanateros. Stay tuned to this channel for updates.

May you be free of The Curse of Greyface. May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes. May you have the knowledge of a sage, and the wisdom of a child.

May you be free of The Curse of Greyface.
May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes.
May you have the knowledge of a sage,
and the wisdom of a child.

There’s more excitement to come this autumn, with several other publications, and plans to develop some public workshops and even a chaos retreat for 2017, plus of course next year will see another Breaking Convention Conference. (And thinking about the power of psychedelics, readers of this blog may enjoy this presentation by Breaking Convention founding member and all round wonderful chap Ben Sessa, entitled Is MDMA psychiatry’s antibiotic?)

Thanks again for engaging with our work and for all the lovely feedback.

Blessed Be, 93 and Choyofaque!

NW, SD, JV

An Audience with Jake Stratton-Kent

Could you give us your superhero backstory please? How did you get involved with occultism?

It was very spontaneous, hanging out with some guys in a log cabin one of them said ‘Jake, you’ve got the soul of a warrior’. This was a life changing catalyst from out of the blue, and I rapidly hunted down a magical manual; luckily enough the first one I found was Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, and I balanced research and practice from then on, never assuming moderns knew better on an a priori basis. As the saying goes, I’ve never looked back.

Goetic Adept

Goetic Adept

Could you tell us a little about your work with the English Qabalah and the Thelemic current more generally?

When Ray Sherwin handed over ‘The New Equinox’ I contacted the editors, particularly the late Jim Lees (attended his funeral recently, complete with jazz band, a good send off). English Qaballa (there’s reasons it is spelled that way) rocked my world: it was very modern, assumed nothing on the basis of previous systems (including the numeration of letters, which wasn’t decimal but serial) and was extremely productive. The approach was radically different from the GD/AC qabalah; if there is a Hebrew analogue it’s more Abraham Abulafia (who connected so called ‘literal kabbalah’ with *practical* Kabbalah rather than mere number crunching. Other affinities range from Dee (who saw cabala as universal rather than limited to Hebrew, see Hieroglyphic Monad) to Austin Spare’s practical use of the English Alphabet. It was majorly focused on esoteric exegesis (deep immersion in scripture, which is dangerous but properly conducted very powerful too). From these ‘interpretations’ various magical formulae were derived, leading to revolutionary approaches to astrologically timed ritual. Some of this work broke the old rules, for example not avoiding the ‘unfortunate’ Via Combusta (the Moon’s  transit between particular degrees of Libra/Scorpio), but using it. The 93 Current was understood to be destructive, and SCORPIO=93 in EQ. Solar conjunctions, also traditionally avoided, were a strong focus of this work also, often with ecstatic ‘Tantric Worship in English’, which, with astro-timing a given, was essentially the definition of magick within this paradigm.

It didn’t hurt that the group concerned included several scientific types and was very capable and practical: making swords, growing herbs and test driving all manner of plants, even making their own paper – an intense and highly educational period. Had no resemblance to Edwardian Lodge magic either, which also helped!

You’ve written extensively on goetic magic, what is it about this approach to spirit work that appeals to you? What would you say have been the key discoveries from your historical/applied research and how have they informed your practice?

There’s another approach? <grin>

It’s been a while but a couple of things kicked it off, other than my long standing interest in the grimoires, and the Grimorium Verum or True Grimoire in particular.

One was the dawning realisation that the darker grimoires tended to involve more ‘primal gnosis’ and were closer to the ancient approaches as in the papyri and elsewhere. There were historical aspects to this, the shift in Western magic from images (often involving animal forms), to words and particular ‘sacred alphabets’ was a given to me from my reading of Frances Yates &c. This initial insight only deepened and widened as I proceeded.

Another was my response to Ron Hutton shooting down modern witchcraft’s pseudo history; balanced with his rider that it also had a real heritage: the ritual magic tradition. Another spontaneous statement by a friend provided the final spur in the right direction. Oddly enough she has the same surname as the friend whose words kickstarted my magical career. Anyhow, she mentioned the connection between the Idaean Dactyls and goetia (a reference to them in ancient Greek is the first mention of goetia in the literary record).

So I worked my way through the process of the Grimorium Verum very thoroughly, making more pacts than is strictly necessary or sane. Much of this ‘overkill’ was necessary to better understand the system and its pantheon, which is essentially how I view a ‘spirit catalogue’. Also wrote a commented reconstruction of the grimoire based on my interest, experience and so forth. Much of this work took place in England, but some large scale group rites in the US played an important role. My appreciation of the ancient background of goetia was developing rapidly during this intense work phase. Ultimately what began as an intended appendix to the True Grimoire turned into a two volume sequel detailing the origins of ALL Western Magic in ancient goetia!

Connecting goetia with necromancy, a connection it never shrugged off even when actual work with the dead diminished in the Middle Ages &c, was a critical insight. From there it is a small leap to realising that ideas about the Afterlife  eschatology in short – are and always were connected with our ideas about spirits.

It is this which always provided a context in which spirits and magicians have a basis for working with one another which is mutually beneficial. Rather than the modern but dated ‘unpaid shopkeeper’ approach which is lacking in depth in a big way. Mugging an entity to supply your wishes is so philosophically unsatisfying, but with modern Western Magic being largely from a secularised Protestant culture, it doesn’t occur to most of us how inadequate this perspective is. The briefest possible definition of magic is in fact ‘practical eschatology’; it is interesting how much explanation such an obvious point requires sometimes!

Allowing for whatever secrecy is required by your practice, could you share what techniques do you tend to use in your magick? (ie the predicable chaos magic question ‘what do you *do*?’)

It varies. I started out with a similar toolkit to everyone else, have worked the IOT curriculum solo and with a mentor, as well as the GD/AC stuff etc etc.

On the other hand, I’ve generally had an eye on ancient methodologies as well as what little an English lad could learn about New World Traditions in 70s England onward.

One of my major bendings of the modern toolkit is definitely worth mentioning. Assumption not of godforms but animal forms (bestial deities &c or ‘theriomorphs’ to coin a term).

That always packs a punch for me, and I’ve worked it in a variety of ways with consistently good results. In the process I’ve adopted ‘animal alphabets’ connected with particular constellations and lunar mansions. Originally the magical images of the decans were of a similar type, before getting ‘laundered’ and made more human and/or allegorical.

Warping myself or my ‘astral body’ into the appropriate animal or beast headed deity &c to – say – consecrate a talisman, connects with deeply primal magical currents. It also works a treat, which is the main issue.

Could you explain your current understanding of what a spirit is (or ‘does’)?

I’ve found working with them as autonomous entities is the most straightforward and effective method. I remain largely agnostic as to the hows and whys.

Yes, as a fairly sophisticated Westerner I’ve pondered possible scientific explanations. Coming from an EQ background, or my take on it anyway, I find a ‘psycho-linguistic’ model provides a possible ‘scientific’ explanation. With leanings toward Chomsky & Monod; no Cartesian dualism involved!

Language is the vehicle of consciousness and culture, and has always been deeply linked to magic. Whether this model explains everything or not, it at least shows that the ‘Jungian archetypes’ are only one possible take, and one with more dodgy overtones. Gods, heroes, myths and spirits are present in every aspect of normal life; especially the media: sport, politics, war, drama & the arts, and our responses to them. Essentially though I’m an Instrumentalist philosophically speaking, the autonomous entity model works best and also shuts off the cop out clause. Once you begin a relationship with a spirit you have to see it through; a ritual is much more than a quick fix to some problem or other and then forget your partner in crime.

You’ve been doing this magick lark for some considerable time. Do you think esoteric practice/culture has changed since you first picked up a wand, and if so in what ways?

Yes and no – while the more aware practitioners who keep up with their peers have definitely opened new directions or rediscovered stuff the early Revival neglected or got wrong. Meanwhile, the same old same old is never hard to find. I still occasionally have to tell people goetia is not just the name of a book Crowley pinched from Mathers.

That aside, some of the fuddy duddy stuff has definitely slackened off, but there’s still plenty of market led consumer magic around.

How do you see the relationship between (your) occultism and wider culture (eg politics)?

There is no shortage of elitist, right wing & self-centred takes on magic; it isn’t anything like the whole story. Hecate – the archetypal witch goddess – was patron of the poor, and *need* is one of the most potent drivers and amplifiers of magic. I rarely do magic for personal gain, unless there is some experimental purpose to be served. Politically I’m wary of the State and lean more towards anarchism among the modern political philosophies. I don’t particularly like socialism, and certainly don’t glamourise communism, but while they may not be the solution, unbridled capitalism is still the problem. Both socialism and capitalism have their problems, but in a democratic society balancing the two makes a deal of sense. In practice I vote against the Tories consistently, and see the world trying to drift towards corporate fascism and a less free world than the one I grew up in, Cold War notwithstanding. Hopefully the ‘inevitable’ triumph of the Right will prove to be as illusory a tunnel reality as the old Mutual Assured Destruction was.

What current projects are you working on?

A couple of things in the writing line, one of which will compare the spirit hierarchies of several major grimoires. One purpose is to clarify the identities behind the seemingly wildly different names. Also to shift the view from text and apparatus towards the real stars of the show, the spirits; who have represented magic far longer than any of us have been involved in it.

Thanks again for your time Jake, really appreciated.

JV

You can find more information about Jake’s work here, here and here.