The Occult Experience


 
Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, the Temple of Set’s high priest Michael Aquino and H.R. Giger figure into The Occult Experience, a well-made, intelligent mid-80s Australian TV documentary,  Of particular interest is the section, starting at 33 minutes in, focusing on “witchy” Australian painter Rosaleen Norton, where you can catch a glimpse of some of her fantastic—yet seldom seen—paintings.

Noted occult author Nevill Drury (who contributed two essays to my Book of Lies anthology) did the interviewing, research and co-wrote the narration script, so this one is a cut above the usual fare. Drury’s latest book, co-written with Lynne L. Hume is The Varieties of Magical Experience.
 

Thank you, Tim Bob!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Happy Birthday Aleister Crowley, self-proclaimed Antichrist; Victorian hippie
10.12.2013
01:40 pm

Topics:
Occult

Tags:
Aleister Crowley


 
Happy Crowleymass, everyone! Aleister Crowley, thee Great Beast 666 was hatched from a dragon’s egg on this very day in 1875.

Below, I discuss Uncle AL on the History Channel TV series, How Sex Changed The World

I had fun doing this show and I got to explain a general concept of sex magic to middle America! Good times!

The Crowley segment starts at about the 5:50 mark.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
David Lynch Foundation Television’s portrait of occult filmmaker Brian Butler


 
Brian Butler’s collaboration with actress Paz de la Huerta, “Babalon Working” premiered last month at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) here in Los Angeles. It was shot on location in Prague at the site where sixteenth-century alchemist Edward Kelly worked the Enochian system of magick. Blondie’s Chris Stein provided the no-wave synthesizer soundtrack.

“It’s between a dream and being awake. It’s a state just between those two. And if you can stay there, then you can channel something otherworldly, nonhuman,” says Butler of his hypnagogic cinematic practices.
 

Brian Butler’s “Babalon Working” on MOCAtv
 

 
After the short film was screened, there was a ritualistic performance art piece. Paz de la Huerta sat in a chair that was itself a work of art, facing the audience, making direct eye contact and sort of writhing and undulating around slowly, touching herself in a kind of sexy yet insane way that would be difficult to describe in any more detail than that. Extremely powerful strobe lights flashed around her.

Ashtar Command’s Chris Holmes did his Eno-thing on a laptop while Brian made stomach-churning low frequency oscillations on an analog synth. Then it was over.

Oddisee Films, in conjunction with David Lynch Foundation Television, have produced a portrait of Butler where he describes his meditational working methods. Eagle-eyed occultniks will note his interesting selection of book props: Znuz is Znees, Memoirs of a Magician by obscure Crowley acolyte C.F. Russell.

I appreciated that. For me, it’s all about the details.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘DO NOT EAT THE CAKE OF LIGHT!’ Dangerous Minds attends Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass
10.06.2013
05:25 pm

Topics:
Belief
Occult

Tags:
Aleister Crowley


 
“A certain magician may 100% believe in the existence of spirits or gods actually existing in the universe,” explains Adrian Dobbie, President of the Electoral College of the UK chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. “Or, if you do some magical evocation to summon a spirit of the Goetia and you communicate with it, that it is definitely a thing. And then there’s a whole other bunch of people, Crowley being one of them, who say, ‘actually these are simply properties of the mind.’ Personally”—he takes a pull on his pint—“I fall into the camp of the agnostic concerning whether these things exist.”

The two of us are sat in a very old pub in the City of London, near where Adrian works, surrounded by lawyers and bankers whose girth looks directly proportionate to their wealth—as if they got so fat literally eating money. For his part, the magician opposite me is a lean, healthy early forties, with short dark hair, a neat beard, and a ready wolfish smirk. (We have, unsurprisingly, picked out a quiet corner for our discussion.)

“The first solo ritual I ever did was very powerful to me,” he continues. “Because although I thought I’d rid myself of the whole Christian dogma—of a God in the sky who’s gonna punish me and all that stuff—the impact of that first, relatively innocuous ritual had on me was incredible. I thought: if the Bible is right I’m going to hell. That’s the line in the sand.”

A longtime Crowley reader and admirer, Adrian joined the OTO about a decade ago. I ask him about his first impressions—how the OTO’s 21st Century incarnation compared, say, to the Crowley heyday he must have grown up reading about…

“My initial experience was extremely positive. I was looking to contact the genuine article; I was looking for mentors, and I got that in spades. The OTO’s ‘heyday’ is today. When Crowley was alive, there was basically just one lodge in the whole world, and when he died there was still just a handful of people in the OTO—fifteen or thirty. Now, there’s over three thousand… But it’s nowhere near what it could be,” he concedes. “We’re still hiring community halls, and we’re still meeting in people’s houses. One of the biggest thing people have to overcome when they first get involved is a sense of disappointment. But that’s one of the first tests.”

Following our four-pints/interview, Adrian is nice enough to invite me to a Gnostic Mass in his native Brighton. (The official invitation attached to the email informs me that the ritual—designed by Crowley, and the organisation’s central rite—was to be preceded by a “TEDx” style talk!)

So, on an overcast September Sunday, I jump on a train from London, arriving in Brighton around midday. It is drizzling and cold. Stripped of her summer finery, the city feels provincial and drab, abandoned to its druggy intrigues for another nine months.

I may as well lay my cards on the table. Raised Catholic, and carrying a jangling jumble of latent Christian bric-a-brac, I prefer to remain precariously perched on the metaphysical fence. In short, I’m keen to cop a glimpse of a Gnostic Mass, but averse to actually nibbling some Cake of Light.

Regarding which, incidentally, I have other, altogether more mundane concerns…

A couple of days ago, I emailed a friend and mentioned my pending trip to Brighton. Their unexpected, seven-word response had read precisely thus: “DO NOT EAT THE CAKE OF LIGHT.” When I had inquired as to the source of such uncharacteristic upper-case vehemence, he had briefly responded that said cake reportedly included the priestess’s menstrual blood!

[Author’s Note: The OTO would like me stress that in fact the Cake of Light contains the merest homeopathic hint of this, shall we say, unorthodox ingredient. “A single drop of blood (which may be of any kind),” they write—sort of almost disappointingly really—“is mixed into the dough of one singular cake. That cake is then baked before being burned entirely to ash, which is then mixed into the dough of a batch that could make up to 50 or more cakes.” Your correspondent had imagined a kind of womb-drawn black pudding or occultnik yucky cookie. Which it very definitely is not. No occultists are ever harmed in the making of a Gnostic Mass.]
 

 
Quarter of an hour early, and frowning at my creased and printed map, I nervously shuffle up a gravel driveway running beneath a block of flats corseted in scaffolding. I’m early. At the end of the driveway less than half a dozen men are standing around outside the entrance of a small faux-Victorian community center.

Before I even reach them I can already hear the tripwires in my psyche (and stomach) a-twanging.

Adrian isn’t about, but I mention his name and introductions are made. This is a special, invitational Gnostic Mass, and a couple, like me, are invitees (though presumably bona fide neophytes rather than tremulous hacks). At least one seems a little nervous, while the OTO initiates—mostly middle aged men with either long hair or none, each with unusually pale blue eyes—inspect us with that slightly salacious curiosity with which people on one side of an experience examine those at its verge.

In the pub Adrian had referred to magick as “psychological transgression.” I can see what he means! The atmosphere is a distinct mixture of the religious and the illicit—as if we were all here for an afternoon of metaphysical dogging.

More people start to arrive, men and women now of varying ages and types. Adrian, our priest, emerges from the community hall along with our priestess, a beautiful Eastern European with dark eyes and darker jewelry. I smile and nod and shake hands, leaning up against a parked car and feeling disingenuously attired in the guise of a prospect.

A thickset guy perhaps in his early thirties, with protuberant features and a hoodie baring a Crowley sigil, strikes up some conversation. He seems simultaneously affable and sly, and describes a weekend that has taken him from Glastonbury to London to Brighton, conducting various initiations. “We have a saying here,” he says matter-of-factly, fishing out a prepackaged sandwich. “No-one’s going to teach you but there’s lots of people who will help you learn.” He tucks in. It’s cheese and onion, and with each dizzying bite it occurs to me that, given the choice between this and Cake of Light, I might very well plonk for the latter.

“The tech,” he mutters (I think—?), “is powerful.”

“The tech?”

He looks at me, a little incredulously.

“The magick. The magick is very powerful. You might leave with a big smile on your face and you don’t know where it’s come from, or you might not get anything for a couple of days. But you’ll get something.”

“I was kind of hoping just to observe. Is it obligatory to participate?”

He gives me a very close look. It enters me like a stick gauging the depth of the water.

“Everyone,” he says, firmly, “is expected to take the sacrament.”

Shit.

He slips off, leaving me to freak out. I’m feeling as conspicuous as the copper in The Wicker Man

To my left stands a rather dapper old hippy with bright white beard and hair. I seem to remember being introduced to him as a fellow guest. We nod at one another.

“So,” I ask, venturing some occult small talk, “is this your first Gnostic Mass?”

“No, but it is my first for maybe… fifteen years.”

“Why the wait?”

“Oh,” he says, narrowing his (very blue) eyes. “I haven’t been waiting at all.”

Hail Mary, full of grace

I’m just readying myself to go scrambling back up the drive, pebbles pinging off my kicking heels, when the rain picks up, and the congregation, now thirty strong, begins to file into the community hall. And, against my better judgment, I file in along with them.

Within the twee, cake-sale space, an OTO temple has been installed – an effect both amusingly incongruous and disturbing, like an Alsatian mounting a poodle. I clock an embroidered checkerboard, Eye of Horus and nosediving dove, but much seems to be “occluded” in anticipation of the mass (we have, remember, that “TEDx-style” talk scheduled first)—what looks like an alter peeps out above a thick purple curtain.

Chairs have been laid out in rows before a little lectern, which Adrian presently ascends for the oration.

“There’s been a lot of speculation,” he begins, “about this being some kind of big OTO recruitment drive or something like that. So I just want to clear this up right away… it absolutely is.”

The room cracks up. Adrian, in his hyper-articulate fashion, talks Crowley, the OTO, and religious freedom for half an hour. The atmosphere, to be sure, is pretty dense—I’m certainly feeling the tech—and I sit desperate to leave but pinned to my seat by a combination of politeness and self consciousness.

Following the talk a loose-limbed discussion ensues, until the seated priestess starts catching Adrian’s eye and tapping her wrist. I try to remember if, in the Inferno, Virgil ever sweeps a hand across a burning lake of yelping Englishmen, nonchalantly explaining to Dante how “these dickheads managed to damn themselves out of social awkwardness.” Any second, I guess, the Gnostic Mass will get underway, they’ll break out the Cake of Light, and it’ll be even harder to leave.

“Right everyone,” says Adrian, taking the priestess’s visual cue. (This, I suppose, is it. Open wide.) “We’re going to have a short break now, while we get everything ready for the Gnostic Mass.”

Hallelujah! The rain has let up, and about three quarters of the congregation shuffles back outside for a pre-prandial cigarette and chat, while the remaining occultists busy themselves rearranging the chairs, pulling back the curtains, and preparing the hall. I goosestep over them, making a beeline for an amused and bemused Adrian, who I shower in incoherent apologies before hightailing it back to London…
 

 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
Black Candles & Other Satanic Delights: Welcome to ‘Witchcraft ‘70’

Japanese poster art for

 

Ignorance about religious beliefs is one of those things that can range from hair raising and volatile to hilarious. A good example of the latter would be when one of my college friends received a double VHS set (and this was in the early 2000’s)  about the Satanic evils of rock & roll music as a well intentioned gift from his parents. The list on the back of the tape mentioned the usual suspects but then made a point to name both Bow Wow Wow and Earth, Wind & Fire. This? Was hilarious to us and heck, it is still funny to me now. I can see parents being nervous about their impressionable fundie kids listening to Venom, but the band that sang Shining Star? Heaven knows that when I think of ole Scratch, 20 piece bands in shimmery outfits singing about love and happiness come instantly to mind. Anyways, speaking of Satan, the dark one’s name gets mentioned a LOT in the at times fascinating and unintentionally funny obscure Mondo-relic, Witchcraft ‘70.

Witchcraft '70 Title Screen
 
Originally released as Angeli Bianchi….Angeli Neri or White Angels…..Black Angels, Witchcraft ‘70 plays like your middle-aged, space-age fabric pants wearing uncle trying to be hip and understanding all of those wacky things you kids are into. But because said uncle is a) more square than the “700 Club” and b) is about as covertly pervy as anyone on any 700 Club-esque show, his perceptions are going to be seriously off.

Any film that begins with such gloriously ham-boned narration as “Explore the naked truth about witchcraft” is going to give you very little truth but a healthy amount of the skin show. It gets better, with the narrator, veteran British character actor Edmund Purdom in all of his serious as the grave intonations, informing us that some of the footage was obtained due to the crew “steal (ing) our way into their black settings in attempts to observe Satan’s unspeakable and yet sometimes erotic rites.” Already, the film is painting a mental picture of the Devil being some mustachioed, smoking jacket wearing mofo who knows how to throw one helluva swinger’s party..

Goat mask at the evening ritual.
 
If you are in any way knowledgeable about non-traditional religious belief systems and have a weak sense of slack, then you might want to stop the film right here. The first segment, dealing with witchcraft, actually makes the statement that “witches believe in Satan like Christians believe in Christ.” Most witches don’t really believe in the Christian God, so worshiping the Christian Devil is going to be a tricky thing.

Cut to Capitola, California, a seaside tourist town and burgeoning hotspot for “hippies or hips.” The cameras talk to one Lt. David Estes, who is either a horrible actor or frighteningly real. The Lieutenant, who appears to have all the awareness and social insight of a dust mite living in the basement, states that the two main problems are “drugs” and “the spiritual revolution.” The latter basically means witchcraft, at least to this officer, who is then asked about the mutilated animals that have been found scattered across town. I like to think it was the local hippies messing with the guy, pointing at roadkill and saying it was due to “the spiritual revolution.”

After that scenic trip, the film goes to England, where the “practice of witchcraft is widely accepted,” which just screams dubious. It is here where we get to witness a “black mass.” (Cue up your Electric Wizard album and throw rotten meat at your neighbors!) The coven meet in an abandoned church, not out of any spiritual necessity, but just to toss a dash of “spice” into the mix. Black candles, black robes and enough darkness to invoke clove cigarette smoked fueled memories of hanging out at the local goth club, fill the area. They commence with a ritual celebrating the Greek God Pan, which for our narrator means only one thing….SATAN!!! Granted, I’m sure the two would make fantastic golfing buddies, but one in the same? I guess invoking “Satan” is far more ooky-spooky than the ancient deity of pleasure and fertility.

Lovely lasses at the ceremony.
 
Of course, there’s the usual nudity, complete with the naked girl on the altar. Get used to this because it is going to come up a LOT. My personal favorite touch was, in an act of intentional sacrilege, they take the host, put it in a glass of wine and then throw the wine on the ground. It’s just so over dramatic and the Count Chocula style narration is not helping. The fact that the odds of this being a real coven are between zero to 1% doesn’t help, but it does heighten the amusement factor.

Also in England is a woman named Eleanor Bones, who preaches against Christianity in Hyde Park. For Eleanor, it’s not just a hobby but also a way to lure potential customers for her witchy wares. We then get a peak into her coven performing a ritual to conduct a spell to help out a sick man. Naturally, they get naked, though the fact that there’s a mixture of body types and not just slim, moderately attractive folks in their early 20’s might very well mean that this could be real. Maybe.

Next we go to Italy, where an older Italian woman channels the spirit of her dead nephew, the victim of an automobile accident. She uses him as a vessel to communicate with the dead, specifically others who have also died due to automobiles, and give messages to the grieving. This lady is more like a rogue Catholic, though more accurately, a rogue bullshit artist and seeing the throngs of weepy eyed lost villagers is no fun. But such is the way of the Mondo films, mixing the bitter with the sweet.

Meet Eleanor Bones
 
The hoodoo-voodoo is bound to come up in a film like this and come it does, with the setting being a warehouse in the middle of Louisiana. Thanks to a smiling paid informant and a hidden camera, we see the group worship “ the snake, zombie or the devil.” It’s religious confusion here on the Damballah ranch. Nobody, except for certain strains of horror film fans, worships zombies. Satan has nothing to do with voodoo either, unless you’re Pat Robertson. But all of this smug misinformation does give us some sweaty dancing, a voodoo queen serving some Tina Turner circa ‘67 realness, blood drinking and of course, nudity. There is also an animal sacrifice that is mercifully off screen.

After that, we get an occult wedding, footage from Brazil that looks like it was more than likely culled from an unrelated project, some European fundie Christians “casting the devil out” and more “ooga-booga” colonial nonsense.

Just as things are really petering out, here comes the Church of Satan founder himself, Anton LaVey. Like a breath of fresh air, LaVey’s segment is prefaced by some choice voice over lines, including “Some left their heart in San Francisco, but others have left their souls too.” Awesome. If there was ever a PSA for the Church of Satan, that line should totally be cribbed for it. We get a peek inside LaVey’s amazing black Victorian house, complete with secret bookshelves and a poster featuring the man pointing towards the camera with the script, “Satan Wants You!.” This poster should have been a fixture in every witchy head shop across North America, but we can all dare to dream.

Satan wants you!
 
A young couple approaches LaVey to perform a Satanic wedding for them. It’s not completely clear if they are all that aligned with the Church necessarily, but they are seeking his services due to a severe disillusionment with not only Judeo-Christian beliefs, but with the world around them. The service is everything you would expect. Black room, LaVey resplendent with horns and a nude buxotic on the altar. The narration soon turns snarky, referring to the Church of Satan parishioners as “bored” and “middle-aged.” Its seems unusually bitchy especially given the hijinks that have already been witnessed and commented on.

The film goes back to the Lieutenant who actually makes a statement saying that he believes that young people are becoming possessed by the Devil due to LSD. This moves smoothly into some more secretly recorded footage, this time of a hippie cult in California. All of this may sound sexy in a “make it witchy” kind of way, until you realize it’s basically a bunch of pseudo hippies hanging around a campfire and toking it up. It’s about as sinister looking as a Phish concert, but only half as evil.

Witchcraft ‘70 is a fascinating and high-tailed relic from an era where the dual forces of curiosity and fear were at a peak with matters of the occult. To the extent where The Occult Coloring Book not only existed but was reviewed in the legendary and short lived teenage groupie rag, Star, back in 1973, just three years after the release of this film. While its approach to alternative beliefs is as backwards as a political conversation at a Southern family reunion, it is an accidentally honest peek into the post-counter culture Pandora’s Box effect. That in itself is a positive thing and worst case scenario, it is a great film to share a healthy amount of libations with a loved one of your choosing.

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
‘Babalon Working’: Brian Butler’s trippy occult odyssey with Paz de la Huerta
09.18.2013
09:37 am

Topics:
Movies
Occult

Tags:
Brian Butler
Paz de la Huerta


 
Brian Butler’s new film, Babalon Working, featuring actress Paz de la Huerta (Enter the Void, Boardwalk Empire) will be premiering tomorrow evening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

From the press release:

MOCAtv is pleased to present the world premiere of Brian Butler’s Babalon Working, a visually arresting journey of consciousness featuring Paz de la Huerta. The exclusive screening will be followed by Butler’s unearthly performance, Transmigration, further exploring the film’s abstract concepts with a high level of intensity through the use of Orgone generators, stroboscopic lights, low frequency sound waves, and geometric formations.

A glimpse into Butler’s forthcoming feature film King Death, Babalon Working uses symbolist imagery to communicate experientially with the viewer and to explore the layers of ecstasy, madness, and creativity that mediate man’s voyage between life and death. The footage was shot on location in Prague at the site where famed sixteenth-century alchemist Edward Kelley pioneered the system of Enochian Magick. Enochian Magick, which would later be expanded by the Golden Dawn, was cited by Jack Parsons as the inspiration for the ritual he entitled the Babalon Working.

Chris Stein of Blondie recorded a manic no-wave synthesizer soundtrack for the film.

The Babalon Working screening will begin promptly at 8pm, doors open at 7pm at MOCA’s Grand Ave location.
 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
King of the Witches, Gerald Gardner
08.30.2013
03:17 pm

Topics:
Occult

Tags:
Wicca
Gerald Gardner

geraldg
 
Gerald Gardner, a contemporary of Aleister Crowley, is credited with being the father of modern Wicca. Although his influence on modern paganism can’t be overstated, he hasn’t received the same level of attention over the years as the darker and more charismatic Crowley.

Gerald Gardner was supposedly initiated into the already established New Forest, England coven of witches in 1939 at age 55 after retiring to Highcliffe in Dorset. Anthropology and folklore professor Sabina Magliocco wrote in her book, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America, that the “New Forest coven” Gardner described in his autobiography and other books may have actually been members of George Alexander Sullivan’s Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship/Order of Twelve.

Gardner created the rituals and beliefs that we now associate with Gardnerian Wicca, although he is said to have borrowed some language and ideas from Crowley and Freemasonry. Of course, it was illegal to publicly identify as a witch in the U.K. until 1951, when the Witchcraft Act was finally repealed. After that, Gardner was quite public about his religion, publishing Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft under his own name (his novel High Magic’s Aid had been published in 1949 under a pseudonym) and granting print and television interviews. A woman whose family was involved in the original group of occult enthusiasts who met at Atlantis Bookshop in Bloomsbury describes Gardner as having style, presence, and “a great cracking wit.”

Gerald Gardner was the director of the Folklore Center of Superstition and Witchcraft on the Isle of Man in the early 1950’s. He bought the building (the Witches’ Mill) from owner Cecil Williamson and opened his own Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, which he ran until his death in 1964. Many of the artifacts from the museum were purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment (as in Ripley’s Believe It or Not), but several of Gardner’s personal ritual items, including his original Book of Shadows (with an estimated worth of $1 million), are in the hands of a British real estate investor now living in Spain.

A recent documentary A Very British Witchcraft looks at Gardner’s background and some of the the spiritual influences in his life prior to Wicca, including Malayan shamanism, spiritualism via Arthur Conan Doyle, English folklore spells, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry. It includes a description of the New Forest coven’s famous ritual, raising the “cone of power,” performed to ward off Nazi Germany’s invasion of Britain in 1940. There are fascinating clips from Gardner’s 1958 BBC Panorama interview, where he manages to keep his cool when accused of holding nudist orgies rather than pagan rituals.

A Very British Witchcraft, below:


Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
The Wormwood Star: Extraordinarily freaky cinematic portrait of occult artist Marjorie Cameron


 
It’s certainly no slight to the late director Curtis Harrington to describe The Wormwood Star, his visually arresting 1955 portrait of occult artist/beatnik weirdo Marjorie Cameron as being “Anger-esque” considering that he’d served as the cinematographer for Kenneth Anger’s Puce Moment and that it stars Cameron, one of Anger’s most well-known cinematic avatars (Cameron famously played “The Scarlet Woman” in Inauguration of The Pleasure Dome and Harrington himself portrayed “Cesare the Somnambulist” in that film. Additionally, Paul Mathison, who played “Pan” in Anger’s druggy occult vision was the art director of The Wormwood Star).

Until The Wormwood Star came out on DVD and Blu-ray recently via Drag City/Flicker Alley as part of The Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection, it was very, very scarce and very difficult to see. You either had to be a friend of Curtis Harrington, probably, or have had a mutual friend with the late director (that’s how I saw it) or maybe see it in a museum. Now it’s on YouTube, of course.

So we’ve established that’s it’s, er, Angery, meaning that there’s more than a fair share of visual flair, drama and a hefty dollop of authentic occult creepiness. Cameron, for those who don’t know, was the wife of rocket scientist/wannabe Antichrist Jack Parsons and a participant in the infamous “Babalon Working” magical rite that also involved future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. She was a dedicated follower of Aleister Crowley and his occult philosophy of Thelema (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”).

Curtis Harrington told Cameron biographer Spencer Kansa in his book, Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron:

Before I made the film I’d heard from Renate [referring here to painter Renate Druks] that Cameron had spent some time in the desert trying, through magical means, to conceive a child by the spirit of Jack Parsons without success.  Cameron never spoke of Jack directly, but I do remember feeling sometimes when I talked to her, of her going off into a realm that I didn’t understand at all. It was sort of an apocalyptic thing and it’s there in her poetry.

What you should know as you watch this is that the vast majority of Marjorie Cameron’s paintings were destroyed by her—burned—in an act of ritualized suicide. There are very few pieces by Cameron that have survived—a few paintings and some sketches—and The Wormwood Star is the only record of most of them (outside of the astral plane, natch. What does survive of her estate is represented by longtime New York gallerist Nicole Klagsbrun). Cameron has long been a figure of fascination for many people and I think I can say with confidence that this film meets or even far exceeds any expectations you might have for it.

As with Anger’s films, I deeply appreciate the careful aesthetic balance between beauty and evil and, as such, it’s an extraordinary document of both Marjorie Cameron Parsons’ very essence as a human being and of her creative output. As cinema, it’s a mini-masterpiece that can stand alongside any of Anger’s films, Ira Cohen’s magnificently freaky Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda, Jack Smith’s Normal Love or Yayoi Kusama’s Self-Obliteration.

Below, the seldom-seen short film, The Wormwood Star. If it looks this good on YouTube, it must look really amazing on Blu-ray. Order The Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection on Amazon (I just did).
 

 
Curtis Harrington and Cameron would work together again on 1961’s Night Tide, one of Dennis Hopper’s first starring roles. Her role as the “Water Witch” was brief, but oh so memorable…
 

 
Thank you Spencer Kansa, author of Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Demons of the Night Gather: Black Widow, amazing, obscure early 70s ‘Satanic’ prog rock group
07.24.2013
12:49 pm

Topics:
Music
Occult

Tags:
prog rock
Black Widow


 
Black Widow were an early 70s British progrock group known primarily for their use of occult and often outright Satanic imagery in their act. They “consulted” with “King of the Witches,” Alex Sanders about the rituals they performed onstage, and he is said to have advised them that they were in danger of evoking a “she devil.” (That’s a buck-naked Maxine Sanders seen on one of their picture sleeves).

Their best known song, not really a hit, but it’s excellent just the same, was “Come To The Sabbat.” With its persistent sonorous chant of “Come, come, come to the Sabbat, come to the Sabbat, Satan’s there” and that flute, Black Widow really didn’t sound like anybody else (maybe a more evil-sounding Uriah Heep?). Too bad that they disbanded after three albums and not much interest, because Black Widow could rock.

Black Widow actually recorded one album before they split that was never released, but it did eventually come out in 1999 on Mystic Records. Black Widow reformed in 2011 and put out new music. There’s even been a Black Widow tribute album made by various doom metal bands.

Thankfully, for such an obscure group, there was a pretty decent documentation of Black Widow’s stage act left behind due to a 1970 Beat Club appearance. In it, they perform the entirety of their Sacrifice album. It was released on by Mystic Records in 2007 as Demons of the Night Gather to See Black Widow.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The ‘Rusty Knife’ of Arigó, Brazil’s amazing psychic surgeon
07.22.2013
08:55 am

Topics:
Belief
Kooks
Occult
Unorthodox

Tags:
Arigó
Psychic Surgery


 
With their sleeves surreptitiously stuffed with chicken blood and pig guts, so-called “psychic surgeons” have been hoaxing the vulnerable (the most vulnerable) for centuries.

Yet every vein of the paranormal has its hero, its standard-bearer… and psychic surgery is no exception. Nestled in its dubious and oft-maligned ranks is the charming, beguiling and relatively well-authenticated instance of Arigó, Brazil’s celebrated “surgeon of the rusty knife.”

Regardless of its veracity or verifiability, it is an incredible story—science and spirituality shaken together into a narrative cocktail worthy of the finest magical realist imagination.

Born José Pedro de Freitas in 1921 on a farm in the Brazilian Highlands, Arigó was an entirely unschooled miner up to the age of thirty. Then, however, his life took an unexpected turn, when he became plagued with terrible depression and headaches and hallucinations. A local spiritualist informed him that the maladies were symptomatic of a spirit’s attempting to work through him: they would persist, he was assured, until he obeyed the entity’s bidding.

How Arigó first succumbed to the will of this sprit (ostensibly a German surgeon called ‘Dr Adolphus Fritz’, who died during WWI) is one of the more colorful episodes of a colorful life. Attending some political convention with fellow miners around 1950, an entranced Arigó reportedly entered a sleeping senator’s hotel room, and carved out a recently diagnosed tumor with his razor.

A little later, he similarly plunged, blade first, into an unwell relative’s vagina, plucking the cancer from her uterus. In both instances, the recipients of such spontaneous and unorthodox treatment apparently experienced no pain or panic whatsoever, nor subsequent infection, and were completely healed—all elements that remained characteristic of this strange surgeon’s practice for years to come. (Arigó never, I should stress, made use of any anaesthetic.)

Arigó went on to treat thousands from every walk of Brazilian life, from peasants to politicians, sometimes up to 300 a day, never accepting payment, diagnosing with instant, unerring accuracy, and occasionally complimenting his free jazz operations with detailed prescriptions this illiterate and unschooled man would churn out in an unusually academic example of automatic writing. While at his work Arigó would speak, fittingly enough, in a thick German accent.

Although he operated in relative harmony with the medical profession—sometimes he would send people away without treatment, telling them a less transcendent physician would suffice—this establishment still persecuted him, in concert with the Catholic church, and Arigó would serve some time in jail for unlicensed practice. He died in 1971, a controversial legend and enigma.

Now cop the following: the American intelligence asset, psychic researcher, and author of The Sacred Mushroom Andrija Puharich’s account of his own time with Arigó—and his own brief but remarkable experience under the latter’s notorious blade. The not-a-little sinister Puharich’s credentials are far from impeccable (he was, after all, patron of that “spoon-bending” charlatan and spy Uri Geller), but his tale is still a powerful one…
 

 
Finally, watch some of Puharich’s bizarre footage for yourself, and see Arigó gouging out cysts, fishing out tumors and whipping out cataracts as if it ain’t no thing, while his unflinching patients sit there cool as cucumbers. You even see him rooting around in a guy’s skull.

While I would hardly describe the following as “safe for work” (puss flies, blood oozes), your correspondent happens to be an almighty wuss about this kind of thing, with an outright phobia of doctors, surgeries, surgeons, gory flicks et al— yet still managed to find this footage quite bearable. Either because it’s uncanny. Or because it’s bullshit. Take your pick…
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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