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The Wormwood Star: Extraordinarily freaky cinematic portrait of occult artist Marjorie Cameron
08.12.2013
04:06 pm

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Art
Movies
Occult

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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 | Leave a comment
Sexytime with The Great Beast: How Aleister Crowley, sex magician, changed the world
07.09.2013
03:47 pm

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Sex
Television

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Yours truly made a recent appearance on How Sex Changed The World, a colorful, fast-paced new History Channel series. The topic was Aleister Crowley and basically how his outsized sex drive and compulsion to do whatever his dick desired that ultimately had a great effect on society in the 1960s.

In other words, Crowley was a free-living, free-loving hippie during the Victorian era, lighting the long fuse of a bomb with his “Do what thou wilt” philosophy that would go off with the sexual revolution.

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

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

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Aleister Crowley: How The Great Beast unleashed the Loch Ness Monster
06.20.2013
01:42 pm

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History
Occult

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The myths of a country travel better than its truths. Once, in a bar in Downtown Los Angeles, I got into a conversation with a man whose teeth were all gold caps. He asked me where I was from.

“Shit. You’re from Scotland. You ever see that Loch Ness monster?”

“No.”

“But you know about it, right?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Yeah? You know all about it, hm?”

“Not really.”

“No? Then you don’t know who made it?”

“Made it?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

I thought for a moment.

“You mean Crowley? Aleister Crowley?”

“That’s the man, that’s him right there, yes. That’s the evil motherfucker who made it.”

Crowley allegedly “made” the Loch Ness monster when he failed to complete a complex Magick ritual at Boleskine House. His failure was said to have unleashed a demon.

Crowley had purchased Boleskine House, on the south-east shore of Loch Ness, in order to carry out a series of rituals from The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage. He had chosen Boleskine because he required:

...a house where proper precautions against disturbance can be taken; this being arranged, there is really nothing to do but to aspire with increasing fervor and concentration, for six months, towards the obtaining of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

Boleskine suited Crowley’s needs, and he later described the place in Confessions:

The house is a long low building. I set apart the south-western half for my work. The largest room has a bow window and here I made my door and constructed the terrace and lodge. Inside the room I set up my oratory proper. This was a wooden structure, lined in part with the big mirrors which I brought from London.

For Crowley, Boleskine House was a “Thelemic Kiblah”, a “Magical East”, where he could practice the Black Mass and summon demons. It is these demons which are believed by many to have caused the strange, monstrous disruption to the loch. Crowley later described the events in his later autobiography which basically go something like this:

...the spirits he summoned got out of hand, causing one housemaid to leave, and a workman to go mad. He also insinuates he was indirectly responsible for a local butcher accidentally severing an artery and bleeding to death. Crowley had written the names of some demons on a bill from the butcher’s shop.

Aleister Crowley and the Other Loch Ness Monster is an engaging short documentary, directed by Garry S. Grant. It contains fine interviews with Kenneth Anger, Colin Wilson, Neil Oram, Head of the UK OTO, John Bonner and Mogg Morgan. And the commentary is read by former Jesus of Nazareth, Robert Powell.

Back to my American friend. As we headed off into the night, in search of another bar, he said, “You ever think that monster was maybe Cthulhu?”

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Mocata wills it so
04.18.2013
06:09 pm

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Amusing
Art
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Artist and illustrator Mark Dawes has designed this fabulous poster of one of my favorite actors, Charles Gray, in his unforgettable role as the Crowley-inspired villain Mocata, from The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil’s Bride).

Adapted by Richard Matheson from Dennis Wheatley’s classic, occult novel, the film starred Christopher Lee as the Duc du Richelieu, who pitted his wits against Satanist Mocata (Gray), for the souls of Simon (Patrick Mower) and Tanith (Nike Arrighi).

Mark has a brilliant selection of work over at his Illustrated Blog, which myself and Mocata will you to check out….
 

 
With thanks to Mark Dawes!
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Magical Childe: Former ‘it girl’ Peaches Geldof, follower of Aleister Crowley?
04.15.2013
12:24 pm

Topics:
Belief
Occult
Pop Culture

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Bad girl/it girl Peaches Geldof claims to have settled down at the ripe old age of 24, in favor of raising her young child and family life, but the former wild child so beloved of the British tabloids—pregnant with her second child—has now taken to her Twitter account and urged her followers to read up on the “do what thou wilt” philosophy of occultist Aleister Crowley.

Geldof also tweeted an Instagram pic of the yantra of Babalon (a symbol closely associated with Crowley) with this message:

“#93 #Thelema #o.t.o for all my fellow Thelemites on instagram!”

#LOL

Because we all know that Instagram is just crawling with Thelemites… Apparently Ms. Geldof’s even got a tattoo of the initials “O.T.O,” standing for the religious organization associated with the Great Beast 666, on her arm.

Via The Daily Mail (so take this with a grain, or a pound, of salt):

A source said: ‘Peaches is fascinated by Aleister Crowley and wants to put the word out there.

‘It’s true that she is interested in OTO and she had the tattoo done a couple of years ago.’

Peaches has also dabbled in Scientology and is now said to have converted to Judaism, the religion of her musician husband Thomas Cohen.

She said in 2009: ‘I felt I was lacking something when I didn’t have a faith.’

Professor Ronald Hutton, a historian at Bristol University, said:  ‘OTO is about using magical acts to become a stronger, more effective person. It’s more mental magic than anything to do with cauldrons.’

A spokesman for Miss Geldof declined to comment.

What I found much more interesting in the article was the news that British comedian Russell Brand is also apparently a bit of a Crowley buff. That I did not know, but it doesn’t come as any great surprise, either.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Hello Aleister Crowley: The Magician Kitty
04.01.2013
01:07 pm

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Amusing
Art

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I’ve blogged about Hello Aleister Crowley (“Do What Meow Wilt”) before, but Etsy seller The All Seeing Cat has come up with a new variation: Hello Aleister Crowley: The Magician Kitty.

This is a one-of-a-kind polymer clay sculpture of Aleister Crowley replicating the 1910 photograph. “The Magician” in his robe and crown, armed with wand, cup, sword, bell, Book, and holy oil.

snip~

The small book on Crowley’s table was handmade and has many pages.


As one person points out in the comments on this thread a while ago: “Well, when will we see the Hello ´Genesis Breyer P-Orridge´ Kitty-version?”

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h/t Chris Holmes

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Robert Anton Wilson on Aleister Crowley
01.03.2013
05:53 pm

Topics:
Heroes
Occult

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Perhaps this will only prove of interest to really hardcore Crowley buffs (and not necessarily RAW fans who aren’t Crowley nuts) but this is, for sure, the best Bob Wilson interview on the topic of Aleister Crowley that I’ve ever heard.

I’m pretty sure this comes from the CD box set of interviews with Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything: (or Old Bob Exposes His Ignorance) that came out in 2005.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Aleister Crowley’s ‘Bartzabel Working’: Video documentation of Brian Butler’s ritual performance
12.17.2012
08:31 pm

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Art
Occult

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Photos and video from Brian Butler’s performance of Aleister Crowley’s “Bartzabel Working,” a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by the Great Beast 666.
 
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The ceremony was performed at the west coast branch of L&M Arts in Los Angeles on December 4.

The ritual was part of the gallery’s current “For the Martian Chronicles” exhibit and employed custom robes made in the original A∴A∴ (Crowley’s magical order) designs and a circle, altar and triangle fabricated in Thelemic colors.
 
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Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
James Franco and Brian Butler to perform Aleister Crowley ritual in Los Angeles art gallery
12.03.2012
06:45 pm

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Art
Movies
Occult

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Three magi: Kenneth Anger, James Franco and Brian Butler

Occult artist / musician / filmmaker Brian Butler will be performing Aleister Crowley’s “Bartzabel Working” tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 4, at the L&M Arts gallery space in Venice Beach, CA. This occult ceremony is part of the gallery’s current “Martian Chronicles” theme exhibit and will employ custom robes made in the original A∴A∴ (Crowley’s magical order) designs and a circle, altar and triangle fabricated in vivid colors. Actor James Franco and Noot Seear from Twilight: New Moon will also participate in the ritual.

In conjunction with the current exhibition For the Martian Chronicles, L&M Arts is pleased to present The Bartzabel Working, a performance by filmmaker and artist Brian Butler. Based on a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by the famed British occultist Aleister Crowley, the ritual later became part of Los Angeles history in 1946 when Jet Propulsion Laboratory rocket scientist and Crowley protégé Jack Parsons conducted his own version of this rite, with the intention of placing a martial curse on a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard.

For his reinterpretation of this historical performance, Butler will conjure Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars, evoking the site that was once home to the late sci-fi author Ray Bradbury and currently comprises L&M Arts. The ritual will have Butler as Chief Magus, leading a cast drawn from his upcoming feature film King Death and featuring Henry Hopper as Assistant Magus, Noot Seear as Magus Adjuvant, and James Franco as Material Basis, the vessel though which the spirit of Mars manifests.

The performance will take place on Tuesday, December 4th at 8:30pm, followed by a reception with tunes courtesy of DJ & artist Eddie Ruscha.

Butler’s work has been shown at LAXART, in Portugal, Greece and in China. He recently performed with Kenneth Anger at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles as Technicolor Skull. www.brianbutler.com

“The Martian Chronicles” exhibit, honoring the work of sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, runs through January 5, 2013

L&M Arts, Los Angeles, 660 South Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA, 90291, 8:30 - 11:30 PM

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Vincent Price & Peter Cushing: On location filming ‘Madhouse’ in 1974
10.30.2012
08:26 pm

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Books
Movies
Occult

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A location report for Jim Clark’s 1974 film Madhouse, starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri and Linda Heyden. The film was very loosely based on Angus Hall’s pulp thriller Devilday, which told the story of a dissipated actor, Paul Toombes (Price) and his return to acting in a TV horror series about the evil Doctor Dis (Doctor Death in the film). Toombes was an obese, unrepentant, drug addicted and sexual predator, who dabbled in Black Magic, and is suspected of a series of brutal murders. Hall’s character owes something to Orson Welles and Aleister Crowley, and the book offered quite a few interesting plot lines the film never developed. Clark went on to edit Marathon Man, The Killing Fields, and The World is Not Enough, amongst many others. Madhouse was his last film as director.

Here director Clark talks about his admiration for the gods of film James Whale and Todd Browning, while Vincent Price and Peter Cushing talk about why ‘horror’ or ‘thrillers’ are so popular.
 

 
With thanks to Nellym.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Τὸ Μεγα Θηρίον: Happy Birthday Aleister Crowley!
10.12.2012
05:13 pm

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Art
Occult

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Aleister Crowley teapot by artist Charles Krafft.

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

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Aleister Crowley action figure!
09.17.2012
05:10 pm

Topics:
Amusing

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Aleister Crowley action figure + box by illegalmego at Mego Museum.

I hoped to capture some of the mystique and intrigue of this person in the figure.

Unfortunately, this appears to be a one-off, so no Christmas present for that special occultist in your life. Boo hoo!
 
With thanks to Jason Louv!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Hello Aleister Crowley Kitty: Do What Thou Meow
08.29.2012
08:05 pm

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Amusing
Animals
Art

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image
 
Etsy shop TheAllSeeingCat makes these one-of-kind handmade and hand-painted “Hello Aleister Crowley Kitty” sculptures from polymer clay and acrylic. Who wouldn’t want this?

They’re $222.00 + shipping at Etsy.
 
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With thanks to Dan Smith!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Alan McGee: Talks Magick, Music and his new Movie ‘Kubricks’
07.30.2012
08:46 am

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Art
Movies
Music
Pop Culture

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With Alan McGee it’s difficult not to be inspired to go out and do something great, something daring, like he did with Creation Records and Poptones and all the bands whose music defines the past 3 decades. His infectious energy glows and inspires, it fills you with his rich enthusiasms for life.

Just now McGee seems to be everywhere: he is making a film called Kubricks with the artist Dean Cavanagh; he’s writing his memoirs; he’s curating a music festival in Japan for 2013; he’s working on an art exhibition with musician Alex Lowe of Gun Club Cemetery; he’s thinking about returning to making records because most of today’s music is “awful”; and he’s also studying Aleister Crowley and Magick.

‘For the last 5 years, I have been studying Crowley / Osman Spare and the Chaos Magickians. I got into Crowley because everybody told me not to go there so, of course, I did and ended up at Chaos Magick.

‘I 100% love Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law is my Bible. I love him. Anybody that is still demonised by the media seventy years later had to be on it and he was. He was the ultimate libertarian.

‘I believe in the power of will. If I want something to happen it does. It always has and that was before I read Pete J Carroll. I really wanted Creation Records to become massive and to get the biggest band in the world and I did.

‘I wanted to become rich and I did, which sounds crass but I come from Glasgow we had fuck all, so having money interested me and still does.

‘If I really want something it comes to me. That was before I learned you can do it with technique, we all can read the right books and be very accurate in what I want to achieve.

This might sound like arrogance, but it’s not. It’s just said in a matter-of-fact way, without any sense of ego.

‘I am almost a hermit in Wales, then I go and DJ or give a talk or work with Takashi, my Japanese friend on Tokyo Rocks and I become the old Alan/Rock ‘n’ Roll Alan, which I also enjoy.’

Most recently he bought a church.

‘I bought this chapel in Wales, as all the pubs and churches are for sale, so I bought it for 33K, has its own graveyard, it’s pretty posh, so that should be fun. I live on a ley line in Hay-on-Wye, everything that happens here is charged. The chapel is more for doing stuff that local people can interact with long term. I know Primal Scream want to do playbacks there etc. so, it’s going to be fun.’

Last month he was producing his first feature film Kubricks, written and directed by Dean Cavanagh, starring Joanna Pickering, Matt Berry, Gavin Bain, Anton Newcombe and, of course, McGee.

Dean and Alan became friends around 2008, after working on the hit on-line comedy series Svengali, which has now been made into a movie.

‘We formed Escalier 39 as a film company to shoot some DIY films. We talk a lot on the phone and have a lot of the same political and spiritual views on things so the film company seemed obvious to us. It’s an experiment really, to see if we can make films together.’

He pauses when asked what his role is in Kubricks.

‘Good question. Maybe as agent provacateur.’

Kubricks was shot over an ‘exhausting’ 5 days and is currently being edited. It’s tag-line is ‘Everything Is Synchronicity…Even Chaos!’ and is a new map to the world Kenneth Anger once filmed (‘I love Kenneth Anger…he’s an amazing dude’) of Magick and Art. Though McGee puts it more bluntly: 

‘I could say meta-physics, but the truth is we don’t really know, which is why we did it.’

Kubricks will released next year, which brings us to McGee’s next project, his return to music after his “retirement” five years ago, which led him to believe he had given muisc up completely. But the cancer of mediocrity spread by Simon Cowell and the piss-poor quality of current chart music has led McGee to rethink things, especially after an offer to organize music festivals in Japan.

‘Recently I have been helping curate stadium festivals in Tokyo for 2013, and I am enjoying it. So maybe I am moving back towards music. I don’t know, to be honest.

‘I do like films and books more than working with music but I find music easy to do, I sort of understand the music process and always have done.

‘I think music is awful at this point and it’s deliberate. Music is such a strong thing, with the message and the vibration and they want it now to be shit so it loses its impact on people. They are great bands around but they just are basically marginalised till they give in.’

Next up, is an exhibition with Alex Lowe, and another film with Cavanagh set in the recently acquired church..

‘Dean is already writing a script about the chapel, but to be honest we both have too many ideas.’

Long may that continue.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Antichrist Superstar: Jack Parsons on film
06.22.2012
12:30 pm

Topics:
History
Occult

Tags:

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This week marks the 60th anniversary of the death of rocket scientist and occultist John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons. In addition to being a pioneer in the filed of rocketry—at the age of 25, Parson was part of the first US Government’s first official rocket group. He later invented the formulation of the solid rocket fuel that eventually put man on the moon—Parsons was a follower of Aleister Crowley, a one-time associate of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a self-proclaimed Antichrist.

From the bio on the Cameron-Parsons Foundation’s website:

MARVEL WHITESIDE PARSONS, always know as Jack, was born October 2, 1914 in Los Angeles, California. A chemical engineer and explosives expert, he was a principal scientist in the experimental rocket research group attached to the California Institute of Technology during the 1930’s. Their testing range in the area of Devil’s Gate Dam above Pasadena has since grown to become the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Parsons was also a co-founder of the Aerojet General Corporation.

Together with his first wife, Helen Parsons Smith, Parsons joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) in 1941, the same year as his most successful scientific achievement, Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO). He was very much the young lion of the occult Order and, under the tutelage of Aleister Crowley, briefly served as the acting master of Agape Lodge. His now famous invocation, “The Babalon Working,” was first performed in 1946, with former WAVE Marjorie Cameron serving as Scarlett Woman and L. Ron Hubbard, future founder of the Church of Scientology, channeling words from the ether as Scribe while Jack performed as Priest.

The “Working” reset the course of Parsons’ life, ending his relationship with Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O. In his surviving essays and polemical writings, Parsons anticipated by many years the ethical, moral, religious and social dilemmas of the future.

Parsons died in an explosion of mysterious origin at his chemical laboratory at home in Pasadena on June 17, 1952. His second wife and collaborator, the artist Cameron, preserved and carried on his work until her death in 1995. In 1972 the International Astronomical Union named a crater on the moon (37°N 171°W) after Parsons in recognition of his pivotal role in developing the solid fuel rocket.

 
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Painting of Jack Parsons by his widow, Marjorie Cameron

Additional reading:
Rocket Man by Scott Hobbes

The Crying of Liber 49: Jack Parsons, Antichrist Superstar (From my Book of Lies anthology)

Short film of Jack Parsons and others at March Field in Southern California, August, 1941, for the first successful test of jet-assisted takeoff (JATO). (YouTube)
 

More film footage of Jack Parsons after the jump

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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