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Happy Halloween (and death day), Harry Houdini: A recording of his widow’s final séance
09:44 am




Magician Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss) died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926 in a Detroit hospital. He was buried in the family plot in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York in a bronze coffin he had purchased for one of his escape acts.

Throughout his career Houdini considered spiritualists to be frauds who conned gullible grieving people. But he didn’t exactly rule out the possibility of ghostly contact either. Shortly before his death he and his wife Bess agreed that, if spirit communication was indeed possible and she outlived him, he would contact her via séance on the anniversary of his death. They established a secret code (“Goodnight Harry”) so that she would recognize his spirit’s authenticity if a medium claimed to have a message from him. Every Halloween for a decade after his death, she held a séance. She also sat in seclusion with his photograph every Sunday to await a sign from the afterlife. None ever arrived.



Santa Muerte candle, stones, and playing cards left at Houdini’s grave. Photo by Allison Meier.

Séances continue to be held all over the world every Halloween in an attempt to reach Houdini’s spirit.

Houdini’s widow’s final séance, Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel, October 31, 1936:


Via Atlas Obscura

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
‘Kneel Through The Dark’: Talking art, magick, Crowley and cats with filmmaker James Batley
07:10 am



You couldn’t really not dig it. Last month I went to the first London screening of James Batley’s Kneel Through the Dark. It was at the Bunker, Dalston, which was a fair bit better than it might sound. For a start, the Bunker is (or was) an actual WWII bunker, with stinking rotting walls lined—for the occasion—with guttering sputtering candles. Then there was the rain, a mighty downpour above ground that the ceiling only filtered through its filth, so that it sluiced dirtily down, refilling drinks gratis and forming such large puddles about the film gear that the nerves of the sodden audience were soon getting quite lustily strummed by the dual threat of flood and fire. Meanwhile Batley himself—great name!—flitted (or flapped) hither and thither in a splendid black cape.

As for Kneel Through the Dark itself, the short, Crowley-inspired film left an impression more physical than mental. A bassline clawed nastily at your stomach, while the images—a turning torso of technicolour smoke; a submerged face; a boy crowned with antlers—flashed by.

Like I say, you couldn’t not dig it, and since there’s a special Halloween screening in London town, I thought it’d be an opportune time to trouble Batley himself (whose work has collected plaudits from Dennis Cooper and Gus Van Sant, among others) with some inescapably inane questions…
Thomas McGrath: Loved the screening. I found the atmosphere and setting to be a part of the film, rather than extraneous to it. How important is it to you where you show a film?

James Batley: Ah thanks. The environment definitely adds an extra dimension. When I first walked down those stairs and saw how the bunker sucked in light, the stale air choked my lungs and rancid water dripped through my eyelashes. I was like… this is perfect

Thomas McGrath: Could you think of some kind of ideal setting or circumstance?

James Batley:I’d love to do a screening in a burning building.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us a bit about Kneel Through the Dark?

James Batley: It’s my second short film shot on Super 8 that features an Aleister Crowley magick ritual but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s a bit like a spell that buries into your subconscious and pushes your whiskers to the ether.

Thomas McGrath: Go on, unpick its symbolism for us a bit…

James Batley: I don’t like to break it down too much. I hate going to an art show where the plaque on the wall tells me more about the art than the piece does or just spells it all out arbitrarily.  Why’d you create something when you could have told me on a postcard?  I don’t like to be lead around and told what to think.  Art is ultimately subjective anyway. Anything you connect with is because it relates to your own experiences or self in some way, no matter how coded or buried in your subconscious it is.

Thomas McGrath: Would you draw any distinction between ritual and art?

James Batley: Art is magick in the Crowley sense.  When you listen to a piece of music, watch a film or whatever, it is momentarily possessing you, directing your mood and bending you to its will. 

Thomas McGrath: How did you come to make films?

James Batley: I just see it as a way of communicating.  Language can be clumsy and fraudulent so I threw up some sound and light to try and express something that gets lost in words.  I tried photography for this but found it wasn’t enough.  Sound is better but put them together and you have something really potent.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about the Crowley influence.

James Batley: He made his own way in. I’m an aerial for this stuff.  It’s important to be a conduit.

Thomas McGrath: I understand you’re very fond of your cat. How would you describe your cat in five words?

James Batley: Nippett. Will. Eat. Your. Brains.

Thomas McGrath: Crowley has a bad reputation among cat lovers usually, right?

James Batley: Well, yea.  He has a bad reputation generally.

Thomas McGrath: Got a new project in mind/motion?

James Batley: I’m planning out my next short at the moment.  It involves a boy who buries dead bees in the park and draws maps to their corpses.  It’s autobiographical.  It has meteors too.

The next Kneel Through The Dark screening will be in the basement (on a loop) at the DCR Halloween party tonight at Red Gallery, London, EC2A 3DT.  Cheap tickets here. More details at: Add/follow James on Facebook to find out about future screenings.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Guided by Voices: The Enigmatic Visionary Art of Madge Gill
11:00 pm



This is a guest post by Nick Abrahams

Madge Gill (1882-1961) is finally being heralded as one of England’s premier visionary artists thanks to a major exhibition of her works taking place currently at the Orleans House Gallery in Richmond, London. Her work is also the subject of a major new catalog, filled with essays (including one by Roger Cardinal, the critic who first coined the term “outsider art,” to cover the wide range of artworks created by self taught and visionary artists) and - even better! - that includes many rare pictures by Gill, most reproduced for the first time.

Madge Gill produced all her work under the influence of a spirit guide named “Myrninerest,” whom she believed was responsible for her prolific output of work. Under Myrninerest’s influence, she would often draw 100 intricate postcard sized drawings at a single sitting! Gill believed she was channeling images from an alternate reality and that the work therefore belonged to her spirit guide. To this end, she did not sell her work during her lifetime, and upon her death hordes of work was found stacked under her bed and in cupboards.

Gill’s work invariably includes female faces, staring out at us , but who these women are (self portraits? Myrninerest?) is never clear. Occasional words and phrases appear. And often heavily repetitive abstract patterns fill the background, or become the subject in themselves. Although self taught, Gill had a draftsman’s eye for composition, and the hallucinatory nature of much of the work is exquisitely delicate. Here is an example of her purely abstract work:

Although Gill seemed to have little influence on the wider art world, the work carries an amazing psychic power, and seeing the work en masse gives a glimpse of Gill’s restlessly inquisitive inner world.  It is exciting to see these works in the flesh, many for the first time being exhibited in public, and to get a glimpse of the compulsive need this woman had to make art. There is something visionary in her work that often echos elements of psychedelic art, as well as Gustav Moreau or William Blake, but with a far more obsessive focus, and a feminine lightness of touch.

So if you are in London, scoot along to Richmond to see this epic show, including the colossal “Crucifixion of the Soul,” a brightly colored and heavily drawn upon 10 meter long work on calico, here on a rare public display, taking up one entire wall of the gallery, alongside a bewilderingly range of other works by Gill, as well as a carefully curated display of other artists who were themselves visionary or mediumistic in their approach. And its free!

Loosely inspired by Madge Gill and her work, David Tibet, best known for his musical output as Current 93, now has a new musical project under the name Myrninerest. Tibet has also collaborated with Henry Boxer, one of the curators of the Orleans House Gallery show, to publish a book of 108 reproductions of some of Gill’s postcard sized drawings, reproduced at their actual size, available here.

Below, Myrninerest’s recent soundtrack for filmmaker Derek Jarman’s magical Journey To Avebury film, all shot on Super-8 back in 1972.

This is a guest post by Nick Abrahams

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Occult Experience
10:05 am



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 | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Aleister Crowley, self-proclaimed Antichrist; Victorian hippie
01:40 pm



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 | Leave a comment
David Lynch Foundation Television’s portrait of occult filmmaker Brian Butler
03:13 pm



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 | Leave a comment
‘DO NOT EAT THE CAKE OF LIGHT!’ Dangerous Minds attends Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass
05:25 pm



“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.”


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 | Leave a comment
Black Candles & Other Satanic Delights: Welcome to ‘Witchcraft ‘70’
07:26 am



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 | Leave a comment
‘Babalon Working’: Brian Butler’s trippy occult odyssey with Paz de la Huerta
09:37 am



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 | Leave a comment
King of the Witches, Gerald Gardner
03:17 pm



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:

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