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Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman


 
Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art has announced the mounting of 91 artworks and ephemera relating to the life’s work of the eccentric LA bohemian legend Marjorie Cameron. The show goes up on October 11 at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center annex and will close on January 11, 2015. “Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman” will feature paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, poetry and correspondence between Cameron and her husband rocket scientist/occultist Jack Parsons, and with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell.

In recent years Cameron’s work has begun to be reassessed by the art world, in part inspired by her close association with artists like Wallace Berman and George Herms, actor Dennis Hopper and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. As interest in their work increased, so has curiosity about the odd, flaming haired creature from Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Sadly much of her work was deliberately burned by the artist herself in the 50s and can only be glimpsed at in Curtis Harrington’s short cinematic portrait of Cameron, “Wormwood Star.” (See below)
 

 
The show will highlight the recent publication of Songs for the Witch Woman, an absolutely stunning coffee table art book / facsimile reproduction of Cameron’s drawings and watercolors along with Parsons’ metaphysical and occult poetry produced by Fulgur Esoterica. (The book was printed in a very limited edition, and is available now. If this seems like the kind of item that you would like to own—it’s a knockout, finely published at a very high quality—buy it now instead of waiting until next year when it’ll be selling for $500 on eBay. If you like this kind of thing, I’ll say it again, it’s particularly nice. There’s a beautifully composed foreword by the OTO’s WIlliam Breeze, who knew Cameron, to recommend it as well.)
 

 
The exhibition is being organized by guest curator Yael Lipschutz with MOCA’s senior curator Alma Ruiz along with the Cameron-Parsons Foundation. The museum will produce a full color catalogue with 75 illustrations for the exhibit.

Below, Curtis Harrington’s “Wormwood Star.” Heartbreaking to consider how many of these paintings are gone forever.
 

 
And speaking of Cameron, her biographer, Spencer Kansa sent me this curious piece of 60s experimental filmmaking that Cameron was involved with:

Za is an early-70s cinepoem by Elias Romero, the underground filmmaker, and one of the main pioneers of the liquid light shows that he began projecting in the late-50s in San Francisco and at Ben Shapiro’s Renaissance Club on the Sunset Strip. Za was filmed in Big Sur and features the movie actress Diane Varsi, portraying an alchemist cum poet. Varsi had already runaway from the superficiality of Hollywood by the time this was filmed, in order to pursue a more artistic and meaningful life. And, interestingly, the raggy dayglo outfits she wears in the film were created by Cameron, no less. Cameron and Elias were old friends by the time this film was made. He had been married to Cameron’s confidante, the poetess Aya. In Wormwood Star Aya admits that: “For years, Cameron never forgave me for splitting up with Elias.”

Watching it today, the film is, er, interesting. I guess back then it probably helped that most of its original viewers were heavily dosed-up.

 

 
Thank you Lyvia Filotico!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Aleister Crowley’s curried rice recipe
07.24.2014
01:37 pm

Topics:
Food
Occult

Tags:
Aleister Crowley


 
English occultist Aleister Crowley wasn’t merely a poet, painter, mountain climber and the Great Beast 666, he was also an aspiring chef, his specialty apparently being lethally hot curries.

Here’s a passage referring to his “glacial curry” taken from his autohagiography, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley:

“The weather made it impossible to do any serious climbing; but I learnt a great deal about the work of a camp at high altitudes, from the management of transport to cooking; in fact, my chief claim to fame is, perhaps, my “glacier curry.” It was very amusing to see these strong men, inured to every danger and hardship, dash out of the tent after one mouthful and wallow in the snow, snapping at it like mad dogs. They admitted, however, that it was very good as curry and I should endeavour to introduce it into London restaurants if there were only a glacier. Perhaps, some day, after a heavy snowfall”

The exact method by which Crowley made his “glacial curry” has been lost to time, but if you’d like to make some magick in the kitchen tonight, The Master Therion’s recipe for his, I suppose infamous curried rice dish, “Riz Aleister Crowley” was found among his papers at Syracuse University in New York.

Unfortunately, The Great Beat didn’t list any actual quantities for the ingredients, but Nico Mara Mckay added the ratios, which can be modified to make any quantity

Riz Aleister Crowley (to be eaten with curry)

Ingredients
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- sea salt
- 1/4 cup sultanas
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds(1)
- 1/4 cup pistachio nuts
- powdered clove
- powdered cardamoms
- turmeric powder (enough to colour the rice to a clear golden tint)
- 2 tblsp. butter

Steps
Bring two cups of salted water to a bowl. Throw in in the rice, stirring regularly.
Test the rice after about ten minutes “by taking a grain, and pressing between finger and thumb. It must be easily crushed, but not sodden or sloppy. Test again, if not right, every two minutes.”
When ready, pour cold water into the saucepan.
Empty the rice into a colander, and rinse under cold tap.
Put colander on a rack above the flames, if you have a gas stove, and let it dry. If, like me, your stove is electric,  the rice can be dried by placing large sheets of paper towel over and under the rice, soaking up the water. Preferably the rice should seem very loose, almost as if it it has not been cooked at all. When you’ve removed as much water as you can,  remove the paper towel.
Place the rice back into the pot on a much lower temperature.
Stirring continuously, add the butter, sultanas, almonds, pistachio nuts, a dash or two of cloves and a dash of cardamom.
Add enough turmeric that the rice, after stirring, is “uniform, a clear golden colour, with the green pistachio nuts making it a Poem of Spring.”
 

 
You can find larger, readable versions of Crowley’s original cooking narrative here and here.

Via Music is the Heart

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Gorgeous psychedelic handbills and posters from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, circa 1967-68


 
Simply stunning vintage handbills for Detroit’s historic live music venue The Grande Ballroom. The majority of these trippy handbills and postcards were designed by Gary Grimshaw (who died in January of this year) and Carl Lundgren. Historically significant, yes, but from a design perspective, these are just jaw-droppingly, face-melting goodness, aren’t they?


 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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You’ll Die Laughing: MAD artist Jack Davis’ wonderfully funny horror trading cards


 
In 1959, Topps trading cards released a set of monster trading cards, illustrated by the great EC horror comics/MAD magazine artist Jack Davis, called “You’ll Die Laughing.” From the informative page about the set on the PSA Card website:

Showcasing creatures from the imagination of Jack Davis, of EC Comics and MAD magazine fame, these pasteboards sparked controversy upon initial release. Worried that the card images would traumatize their children, a group of mothers in Racine, Wis., reportedly protested against Topps and its advertisers.

“The art on the cards was really in the tradition of MAD magazine,” explained Bill Bengen, who owns the top set on the PSA Set Registry, “and I remember my mother’s reaction to MAD magazine, she wouldn’t let me buy it. She said, ‘You can buy Superman, but you can’t buy MAD.’ Today this set wouldn’t even get a reaction. They would probably call it mild.”

With this series, however, Topps discovered that negative publicity could be good for business. Fueled by their parents’ disapproval, kids hoarded these cards and packs sold out across the country.

“The idea of the forbidden, the taboo, that definitely enhanced the sales,” said Bengen.

 

 

 

 

 
More monster madness from Jack Davis after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Le Cabaret de L’Enfer: Turn of the century Paris nightclub modeled after Hell
07.02.2014
06:53 am

Topics:
History
Occult

Tags:
Paris


 
As a general rule, theme bars are embarrassing affairs. You have your corny waitstaff, your overly literal decor and a sense of forced performance that’s… annoying. Once in a blue moon though, there has been a theme bar so fucking cool you would sell your soul to get in. Tragically, you would have to strike some kind of deal with the devil to go to Le Cabaret de L’Enfer, since the Paris red light district nightclub opened around the turn of the last century and closed sometime during the middle of it. Very little information exists on L’Enfer, but the detail in the decor is absolutely gorgeous—almost Boschian elements of twisting human, animal and skeletal forms—couldn’t you just die?

An entry from National Geographic says that the doorman and waiters dressed as Satan and an order of coffees with cognac was translated as “seething bumpers of molten sins, with a dash of brimstone intensifier.” Okay, so that’s a little bit corny, but come on, it’s a goddamn hellmouth! If you’ll notice the external photographs, some cheeky (or possibly just opportunistic) mind opened a club next door called “Ciel,” the French word for “Heaven.” I appreciate the consistency, but let’s be honest-which bar would you rather go to?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roughly translated: “L’Enfer (Hell), the only cabaret like it in the world, every night from 8 to 2:30 in the morning, devilish attractions, torment of the damned, round of the damned, the boiler (whatever that was), metamorphoses of the damned
 
Via Retronaut

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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William Shatner speaks Esperanto in oddball cult horror film ‘Incubus’
06.02.2014
09:22 am

Topics:
Movies
Occult

Tags:
William Shatner
Leslie Stevens


 
Just before he signed-up to play Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek, William Shatner made a bizarre, little seen, art-house horror movie called Incubus.

It was little seen because the film’s original negative and nearly all of its prints were thought lost or destroyed not long after its initial screenings at film festivals.

Bizarre, well for two reasons, firstly because the whole movie, though shot in California, was performed in Esperanto, an artificial hotchpotch of a language created in the late 19th century by L. L. Zamenof to encourage peace and understanding between the peoples of different nations.
 

 
Incubus was written and directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits. It came about after The Outer Limits had been canceled. Stevens was looking for a way to kickstart his career and curiously decided that an artsy low budget horror film in a language very few people understood could be the answer. William Shatner who starred as Marc in the film later recalled that Stevens’ script…

“...had a starkness and a simplicity to it - of good and evil, it was kind of Greek in its simplicity and the way that events marched, in the script, to their inevitable conclusion. So I read it and called him back quickly and said, ‘that’s wonderful, I’d love to do it.’”

At this point in his career, Shatner had appeared in numerous episodic television roles (including The Outer Limits episode “Cold Hands, Warm Heart”) and in supporting roles in a few notable features, such as Judgment at Nuremberg and The Outrage. His only leads in a feature at this point were for The Explosive Generation and more provocatively in Roger Corman’s The Intruder, which received very scant distribution.

Shatner said “when [Incubus] was presented to me I was in the throes of some good work and in demand, and this was a small picture, it was something that you might not think of as, in that famous phrase, a ‘career move,’ but it was so intriguing, and I so enjoyed working with Leslie Stevens, that I wanted to be in it.”

Stevens wanted to “put the film in a different place,” so he decided to have the actors speak in Esperanto throughout the movie. Stevens figured Esperanto was strange, exotic and archaic enough to create a mysterious sense of otherness. This was the second feature made in Esperanto, though the language had been used to atmospheric effect as set dressing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, as Hitler had denounced Esperanto as a Jewish plot to take over the world.

When Incubus was premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in October 1966 and a group of 50-100 Esperantists “screamed and laughed and carried on like maniacs” every time the actors mispronounced the language—Shatner’s Esperanto is considered especially bad as he used a nasal French-sounding manner to enunciate the language. (He was raised in Montreal.)
 

 
The movie was further “bizarre” not just for its art house style (kinda Cocteau meets Bergman) but because of the strange incidents associated with a curse supposedly put on the film.

Via IMDB:

In his commentary for the DVD, William Shatner recalled an incident that occurred when the cast and crew first arrived in Big Sur, California. He remembers a “hippie” man approaching the company, and inquiring into their endeavor. Shatner says that the cast and crew reacted with some hostility to his interest, which angered him in turn. The “hippie” then loudly put a curse on their production, which some people believe came in effect.

 
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The curse was blamed for a series of incidents that occurred within a year of the film’s production. After its initial, limited release the film was considered lost after being destroyed in a fire (or accidentally destroyed by a French film lab, it’s unclear); one of the main actors Milos Milos, who played the Incubus, killed his lover Carolyn Mitchell (estranged wife of Mickey Rooney) and then committed suicide; while actress Ann Atmar who played Shatner’s sister Arndis in the film also killed herself. Even the composer, Dominic Frontiere was convicted and spent some time in prison for scalping literally thousands of Super Bowl tickets in the 1980s

Tragic events and criminal activity aside, a print of Incubus was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. A new print was created frame-by-frame, with English subtitles superimposed over the French ones.

So what’s it all about? Well, Incubus tells the story of an ancient Deer Well and the succubus who prey on sinful people who use it. If a corrupt person drinks from the well the water will taste salty, only a person pure of heart can benefit the healing properties of the well. Tired of killing the bunch of sinners who drink from the well, succubus Kia (Allyson Ames) schemes to lure a man pure of heart to the well as a sacrifice to the God of Darkness. Cue William Shatner as Marc, a wounded soldier, who Kia falls in love with, causing her sisterly demon Amael (Eloise Hardt) to raise an Incubus (Milos Milos) to bring revenge on Marc and his sister Arndis (Ann Atmar).
 

 
With thanks to Paul D. Brazill

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Earliest known Aleister Crowley manuscript surfaces
05.19.2014
08:28 pm

Topics:
Books
Occult
Queer

Tags:
Aleister Crowley
poetry


 
In 1898, heartbroken Cambridge student Aleister Crowley’s love affair with Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt had ended and he looked to his poetry for comfort. A small notebook of these lovelorn poems will be exhibited at the Olympia antiquarian book fair in London later this week.

Rare book dealer Neil Pearson, who discovered the manuscript during a hunt for early gay literature says:

“The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanise him – and God knows Aleister Crowley, more than most people, needs humanising.”

Pollitt was a female impersonator who went by the stage name “Diane de Rougy,” the future Great Beast 666 was just 22 when they met in 1897. Pollitt was four years his senior, a friend of both Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, had been painted by James McNeill Whistler and was the president of the university’s Footlights Dramatic Club. “I lived with Pollitt as his wife for some six months and he made a poet out of me” is how Crowley described their relationship.

Crowley later wrote of his lover:

“Pollitt was rather plain than otherwise. His face was made tragic by the terrible hunger of the eyes and the bitter sadness of the mouth. He possessed one physical beauty - his hair ... its colour was pale gold, like spring sunshine, and its texture of the finest gossamer. The relation between us was that ideal intimacy which the Greeks considered the greatest glory of manhood and the most precious prize of life.”

 

 
According to bookdealer Pearson it is the earliest known Crowley manuscript, a collection of eight sonnets, composed in pencil in a small notebook. Only two of the homoerotic poems have ever been published. Crowley destroyed much of his earliest poetry, but chose to keep this volume, which includes titles like “He, who seduced me first” and “I, who am dying for thy kiss.”

“He destroyed the poetry because he was the priest, the master, the leader, and it didn’t suit his image to be seen as weak and vulnerable. But he kept this little book all his life, so the poems obviously meant a great deal to him.”

The so-called “Amsterdam Notebook of Aleister Crowley” is priced at £12,500 and can be viewed starting Thursday at the Olympia . Here’s one of the poems.

The Red Lips of the Octopus

The red lips of the octopus
Are more than myriad stars of night.
The great beast writhes in fiercer form than thirsty stallions amorous
I would they clung to me and stung. I would they quenched me with delight.
The red lips of the octopus.
They reek with poison of the sea
Scarlet and hot and languorous
My skin drinks in their slaver warm, my sweats his wrapt embrace excite
The heavy sea rolls languishly o’er the ensanguined kiss of us.
We strain and strive, we die for love. We linger in the lusty fight
We agonize; our club becomes more cruel and more murderous.
My passion splashes out at last. Ah! with what ecstasy I bite
The red lips of the octopus.

Crowley’s bisexuality and libertine ways led to his expulsion from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1899, clearing the way for Crowley to develop his own magical order.
 

 
Via The Guardian

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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They Sold Their Souls for Rock N Roll: The Michael Jackson, Aleister Crowley, Liberace connection


 
They Sold Their Souls for Rock N Roll is a mildly notorious 2004 Christian indoctrination video series meant to scare kids away from Satanic rock music, and even apparently some easy listening and country and western as well. (Young people have eclectic iTunes playlists and the devil’s minions know this.)

With an awful lot of screen time to fill, the producers of They Sold Their Souls for Rock N Roll didn’t just go for the more obvious targets—KISS (aka “Kids in Satan’s Service”). Led Zeppelin, Ozzy, Judas Priest, etc—they dug deeper into the Satanic morass, managing to pull Garth Brooks, Billy Joel and even Liberace into their rambling and logically spurious “thesis” which is spread out over either four or ten volumes (there are two versions):

Is it true that Satan is the master musician working behind the popular music scene and influencing our youth?

Fasten your seat belts as you go on an eye-popping ride upon the roller coaster of Rock, and find out how Rock’s most popular artists have Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll. In this mind-blowing exposé Pastor Joe Schimmel reveals just how Satan has been effectively using popular music to undermine God’s plan for the family and ultimately heralding the coming of the Antichrist and his kingdom on earth.

This full-length video series contains 10 hours of eye-popping, rare, and some never before seen footage that will leave you picking your jaw up off the ground, as you see hundreds of artists (most of whom are not covered in the abbreviated 3-hour version) being used by Satan to destroy many lives. Come behind the scenes with us as we expose the deceptive agendas of many of yesterday and today’s secular artists, such as: Elvis, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, U2, Creed, Madonna, Britney Spears, DMX, Tupac, Tori Amos, and many more.

It’s time to remove the blinders - guard yourself and those you love from one of Satan’s most powerful tools!

Ooh, talk about earnest. Naturally Marilyn Manson gets blamed for a lot of this devilish devilry and figures prominently, but ascribing all that infernal power to a dude who spends two hours doing his make-up before he leaves the house never seems to strike the producers as even the teensiest bit silly…

Pastor Joseph Schimmel is not actually the host of the series, as stated on the box cover—it’s actor Grant Goodeve who you might recall from The Love Boat, Eight is Enough or Northern Exposure. But if that is Schimmel breathlessly reciting the voice over—you can hear his saliva hitting the mic throughout the entire thing, as he repeatedly trips over his words—he should have paid Goodeve the extra bucks to narrate as well as host. It sounds like he’s amped up on crank and drooling the entire time. Say it, don’t spray it, Reverend…

Here’s one particularly good short sample of the, er… charms, I guess, of They Sold Their Souls for Rock N Roll that explains how Michael Jackson used an Aleister Crowley-style ritual to contact the spirit of Liberace! Crowley gets blamed for everything here, don’t you know? Scroll in to about 2:20 to start.
 

 
image
 
Part one of They Sold Their Souls for Rock N Roll. Should you wish to torture yourself with more, it’s easy enough to find the rest. I recommend the Amazon reviews.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Kenneth Anger and Marjorie Cameron discuss Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard


 
In 1987 artist/occultist Marjorie Cameron and Kenneth Anger took part in a BBC Radio 4 documentary titled “Ruthless Adventure: The Lives of L. Ron Hubbard.” Bohemian weirdo Cameron was a participant in the infamous “Babalon Working” sex magic rituals conducted by her husband rock scientist Jack Parsons and the future founder of Scientology.

The interview is referenced in Spencer Kansa’s Cameron biography Wormwood Star The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron:

In August 1987, Cameron was featured in a BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled Ruthless Adventure: The Lives of L. Ron Hubbard. The decidedly suspect programme was researched and narrated by Margaret Percy, who interviewed Cameron earlier that year at her home. Kenneth Anger also contributed to the documentary and, for a while at any rate, the two appeared to have settled into a brother-sister type of relationship, with all the ensuing ups and downs. They were even talking about collaborating on another film together.

It was Anger who put the BBC researcher in contact with Cameron, and when Percy sat down with her host at her home on Genesee, she could still detect a vestige of beauty in her, despite the wrinkles and ravages of age: “I thought she must’ve been stunning when she was younger,” Percy attests. One standout memory from their meeting came when Percy asked a couple of questions that seemed to make Cameron uncomfortable and on both times, as if on cue, her dove Pax began cooing in the background. “It was an eerie experience,” Percy recalls.

Back in 1969, the British Sunday Times ran an expose on Hubbard’s participation with Jack in The Babalon Working and cited Aleister Crowley as a catalytic influence on Hubbard’s teachings. To counter this claim, Hubbard issued a cover story in which he painted himself as a cloak-and dagger intelligence agent, sent in to the Fleming mansion on South Orange Grove, to rescue his future wife Betty from the evil clutches of Jack Parsons’ black magic ring. This dubious scenario played hard and fast with the facts, yet in the subsequent radio broadcast Cameron, surprisingly, gave credence to this line, musing how Hubbard, “may have been an agent – as he claims.”

In discussions with [the OTO’s] William Breeze she also reconsidered the circumstances surrounding her own initial involvement with Jack: “She would space-out and say, ‘Maybe I was sent in there’ (to Jack’s house on Orange Grove) ‘maybe I was an intelligence drone.’”

It was clear that over recent years there’d been a sea change in Cameron’s view of L. Ron Hubbard, as Breeze explains: “She may have reached some sort of accord with the Scientologists. She was approached by them and knew some people in LA – that’s how she got Jack’s FBI file. She wasn’t down on them and she wasn’t down on Hubbard anymore. She actually liked Ron. She thought he was charming.”

Over the decades, The Church of Scientology had grown into a multimillion dollar empire, boasting movie star converts, but one person whose low opinion of Hubbard had decidedly not wavered, and had only grown more virulent over time, was Kenneth Anger. To a perennial Hollywood-watcher like him, Scientology’s foothold in Tinseltown only added fuel to his ire, and during his own interview for the same radio documentary he made his feelings abundantly clear, describing Hubbard as an “elemental demon.” Even though she’d never been a member of either organizations, Cameron believed that due to her rich history, she had earned a rightful place in the highest echelons of both the O.T.O. and Church of Scientology.

The newly revised edition of Kansa’s Wormwood Star The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron has just been published and features over 20 new images, including rare stills of Cameron and Jack Parsons taken from a 1947 home movie that Kansa uncovered. Wormwood Star is now available on the Amazon Kindle for the first time.

Interest in this once obscure artist continues to grow; Fulgur is publishing Songs for the Witch Woman by Cameron and Jack Parsons and “Song for the Witch Woman: The Art of Marjorie Cameron”—the first full-scale exhibit of her work—will be mounted in Los Angeles in October.

Listen to “Ruthless Adventure: The Lives of L. Ron Hubbard” by clicking here.
 
Below, artist George Herms, filmmaker Curtis Harrington and Kenneth Anger discuss Marjorie Cameron in “Cinderella of the Wastelands”:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The socialist politician Aleister Crowley nominated as his successor
04.25.2014
07:23 am

Topics:
History
Occult

Tags:
Aleister Crowley
Tom Driberg

yelworcgrebird1.jpg
 
The name Tom Driberg might not mean much today, but Driberg was at the center of nearly every major political and cultural event during the twentieth century. He was, as his biographer Francis Wheen described him, like Woody Allen’s fictional creation “Zelig,” for Tom had been:

...on the picket lines of the General Strike, in Spain during the civil war, in America for Pearl Harbor, in Paris for the liberation, in Buchenwald just after it was relieved, in Korea with the Royal Marines, in London when it was Swinging.

Driberg was a respected British politician, a member of parliament and Chairman of the Labour Party. He was also a journalist and author. As a young man at Oxford University he had been part of the gilded “Brideshead” generation, alongside Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden (who he introduced to T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland), and Cyril Connolly, who later wrote of this privileged group:

“We were the last generation of womanless Oxford. Men who liked women were apt to get sent down.”

At university, Driberg indulged his sexual tastes and formed his political allegiance to the Communist Party. He had a brief career as a poet and became friends with Sacheverell and Osbert Sitwell.

After university he started his career as a journalist establishing and writing the “William Hickey” gossip column for the conservative Daily Expres. Though Driberg married Ena Mary Binfield in 1951, he was gay and lived a dangerously promiscuous life in the decades before homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain. Driberg mixed with a variety of notorious gay underworld figures, including Ronnie Kray with whom Driberg was rumored to have had an affair. He also mixed with royalty and celebrities, such as Mick Jagger with whom he discussed revolution and politics and tried to convince the singer into standing for parliament as a Labour MP.

Driberg was expelled from the Communist party. He had links to MI5, knew double-agent and Guy Burgess and was always suspected of alleged treachery. In later years, Driberg famously supported the legalisation of cannabis and contributed to satirical magazine Private Eye where he compiled the crossword. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore famously satirized Driberg as a lecherous and predatory homosexual in stockings and suspenders.

Driberg may seem like a mythical figure, but this brief summation only skims the surface of his life. Indeed, one of the more incredible tales in Driberg’s biography was his association with Aleister Crowley and how the “Great Beast” chose Driberg to be his successor.

When Driberg was at university his writing came to the attention of Aleister Crowley who for whatever reason took an interest in his verse poem “Homage to Beethoven” and invited the young man to lunch at the Eiffel Tower restaurant.

Crowley was already there when I got to the Eiffel Tower. He stood up, stout, bald and middle-aged, in a well-cut plus-four suit of green hand-woven tweed, and greeted me. Then, as we sat down, he said, in a rather high cracked, donnish voice: ‘Pardon me while I invoke the Moon.’

We did not on this occasion go into these deeper matters. I asked him whether at this time he was performing any magical ceremonies in London. He took the opportunity to explain that they were very expensive to set up—the pentacle must be just so, et cetera, or it could be dangerous. All the same, a lot of rubbish had been written about his magic. Magic was simply ‘the art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.’ It operated in quite everyday ways: when you used the telephone it was magic, or would have been thought so a century ago.

After their lunch together, Driberg saw Crowley again from time to time. The Great Beast was under the misapprehension Driberg was rich, a belief founded on Driberg being part of the “Brideshead” generation at Christ Church college, Oxford. Crowley kept hinting to the young poet about the great works he still had to achieve, and his need of finance.

One day [Crowley] wrote to tell me that he had found a reference to myself in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The actual quote was: ‘From no expected house shall this child come’—and ‘what house.’ asked Crowley, ‘could be more unexpected than Aedes Christi?’ (Christ Church—the House’). It was hard to tell if he were serious or joking, as when, soon after this, he told me that he had decided to nominate me as his successor as World Teacher. He had assumed this role some years earlier, and dated all his letters from the year and the day of his epiphany.

However, Driberg wasn’t too impressed by Crowley’s proclamation as he had heard of one other man to whom Crowley had made the same offer.

...and I hope that he, rather than I, has inherited the burdensome legacy.

A few years later, after Driberg had left Oxford and started his career as the gossip columnist “William Hickey” at the Daily Express, he was contacted by a music-hall illusionist called The Great Cosmo who had acquired a trunk (“either as payment in lieu of rent or in the course of a moonlight flit”) that contained a selection of Crowley’s letters and journals.

I went along to see Cosmo. The letters were not ‘compromising’, but I relieved him of them. He also let me have something much more interesting—a small square volume, bound in red morocco and encased in baroque silver which must once must have held a missal or a breviary: this contained Crowley’s manuscript diary, recording his daily magical and sexual doings, for the period covering Loveday’s death at Cefalu and Mussolini’s subsequent expulsion of Crowley from Italy. (He set up another ‘temple’ in Tunis.) It also contained a number of pages bearing what may be called oaths of allegiance, signed in Crowley’s presence by various devotees.

Amongst these devotees was the journalist and “distinguished mathematician”  J. W. N. Sullivan, and on the front page of the diary Crowley had written all the titles he had given himself “Το Μεγα Θηριον” (“The Great Beast”), “The Eternal Word” and “The Wanderer of the Waste.” Having possession of Crowley’s intimate diary gave Driberg the chance to play a trick on the occultist.

One evening Driberg was invited by Crowley to dinner for curry (cooked by himself) and a few bottles of Moët and Chandon’s champagne.

Then Crowley did what he had often done before: he drew the little diagram known as the pentacle, used for telling fortunes by ancient Egyptians, and asked me to stare into the central space between the lines and tell him what I could see. I had never before seen, or pretended to see, anything: but now I recalled the little manuscript diary—which he did not know that I had—and began, in a trance-like voice, to describe it: the shining baroque silver, a monstrance with a Host on one side of it, the red leather, the writing inside which I could not quite read…I had never seen Crowley so staggered: he leaned forward in desperate eagerness. ‘Go on,’ he said, ‘go on!’ But the vision faded. ‘Try again,’ he pleaded. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I can’t see anything more…though perhaps if we had another bottle of Moët…?’

This was, I fear, a rather mean trick to play on the old boy: I excused it to myself by reflecting that it had given him such obvious amazed delight to see one of his own bits of magic actually coming true.

As Francis Wheen notes about the whole affair in his biography of Driberg:

...it was Tom who made the money out of Crowley, not vice versa. By rather dubious means he acquired Crowley’s manuscript diary…many years later Tom sold this for a handsome sum to Jimmy Page, the guitarist with the rock group Led Zeppelin.

In 1973 Tom raised more money by auctioning at Christie’s several volumes presented to him by Crowley. They included a copy of The Book of the Law, inscribed ‘To True Thomas of Eildon Hills with all best wishes from Boleskine and Alertarff’.

Tom Driberg died of a heart attack in 1976. His autobiography Ruling Passions was published posthumously, and the definitive biography The Soul of Indiscretion by Francis Wheen was published in 1990.

Below, the Great Beast speaks: Here’s Aleister Crowley’s recording of “The Call Of The First Ćthyr.”
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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