A dark basement where we hide the black candles and inverted pentagrams.

Alan Moore on Austin Osman Spare

Alan Moore on BBC2 discussing the artistic and occult genius of Austin Osman Spare:

Mitch Horowitz on the Occult

Our good friend (and sometimes-Grail-blogger), Mitch Horowitz, has a half-hour video presentation over at Big Think discussing 'the occult' and other aspects of his book Occult America (recently released in paperback, see Amazon US and UK). I've embedded the complete video below, or you can visit the BT site to choose particular 'chapters' from the presentation.

Recently Occult America was awarded the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence, so congrats to Mitch on receiving some just reward. You read more from Mitch over at his website, mitchhorowitz.com

Alan Moore: Art is Magic

Love this video, excerpted from The Mindscape of Alan Moore (Amazon US and UK):

I think Moore nails it in the section from 5:00 to 6:10. For those who struggle with bandwidth, here's what he says:

Writers and people who had command of words were respected and feared as people who manipulated magic. In latter times I think that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment. They're not seen as transformative forces, that can change a human being, that can change a society. They are seen as simple entertainment, things with which we could fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we're waiting to die.

It is not the job of artists to give the audience what the audience want. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn't be the audience, they would be the artist. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.

All said in that wonderful Moore drawl of course, giving it so much more impact.

The Ethnobiology of Voodoo Zombification

Here's a fascinating article over at ScienceBlogs on "The Ethnobiology of Voodoo Zombification":

Haitian clergy attribute the creation of zombies to sorcery. The Vodun religion makes a distinction between the corps cadavre (the physical body), the gwo-bon anj (the animating principle) and the ti-bon anj (agency, awareness and memory). When zombifying someone, the Vodun sorcerer (or bokur) extracts the ti-bon anj of the victim, and retains it in an earthenware jar (where it is then referred to as zombie astral).

Haitian doctors, on the other hand, consider zombification to be a result of poisoning, and there are reports that sorcerers use a white powder called coupe poudre to zombify their victims. In the early 1980s, Wade Davis, an anthropologist and ethnobotanist who was then working at Harvard University, travelled to Haiti in order to determine the ingredients of the coupe poudre. He interviewed a number of sorcerers and collected 8 samples of the zombie powder from 4 different regions of the country.

Upon analysis of the powders, Davis found that 7 of them shared a number of ingredients, including toxins produced by cane toad (Bufo marinus, left) and an irritant produced by a hyla tree frog (Osteopilus dominicensis). One of the samples also contained trace amounts of tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin produced by various marine organisms, most notably the pufferfish.

The article goes on to discuss possible flaws in Wade Davis's tetrodoxin theory and alternative hypotheses, though concludes that it's likely "there is no single explanation for zombification."

Previously on TDG:

Wickedest Books in the World

A number of years ago, when I was visiting Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to be steered and beered around the town by my good friend Blair MacKenzie Blake (whose writing appears online at the website of prog-rock band Tool, and also in print via our own Darklore anthology). During that visit, I was given a glimpse of Blair's amazing esoteric book collection - a veritable treasure trove of first editions on various occult topics, from Crowleyana to pulp ufology, collected over many years by a man who knows the topics inside out. I certainly felt privileged to lay my hands - if for a short time - on such precious pieces of history. It's just a good thing that I didn't drool all over them, as any lover of books and/or esoterica might have done if put in my position (and I hope BMB has since taken on board my suggestion for a fireproof storage option!).

Now you too can get a taste of Blair's awesome collection, with the release of The Wickedest Books in the World: Confessions of an Aleister Crowley Bibliophile:

The Wickedest Books in the World is a large format (9 X 12) coffee table-style hardcover book containing over 50 glossy full color photographs of the rare, often magnificently produced, first edition books of the renowned British occultist, Aleister Crowley that are currently in the collections of both Blair and fellow bibliophile, Danny Carey (Tool's drumming genius).

Collectors please note! Printed and bound by one of the top printers in the world, this first hardcover edition...

...is strictly limited to 1000 copies, with the first 156 copies numbered by way of an anti-consecrated page carefully removed from the author’s personal copy of the 1922 British first impression of Crowley’s notorious The Diary of a Drug Fiend (placed inside a clear envelope). Additionally, the first 333 copies are individually numbered and SIGNED by both the author and the author of the book’s foreword, DANNY CAREY (who is featured throughout the book as avid collector of Crowleyana).

Along with the wonderful images you'll find text touching on Crowley's history, the story of how many of his most coveted books have meandered their way through the decades and into Blair's collection, and also a foreword by Danny Carey. You can pick up your own copy of this wonderful book via Danny Carey's newly redesigned website (and I suggest you don't wait too long). Alternatively, go directly to the purchasing page.

(And don't forget to check out Blair's book of sumptuous occult-influenced prose-poems, Ijynx too!)

Occult Rock

This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 2, which is available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field: Robert Bauval, Nick Redfern, Loren Coleman, Jon Downes and Daniel Pinchbeck, to name just a few. Darklore's aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore.


Occult Rock
by Greg Taylor

Few guitarists have been as influential as the legendary Delta Bluesman, Robert Johnson. His recordings have inspired fellow blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, song-writing genius Bob Dylan, formative rock gods The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton (who labelled Johnson “the most important Blues musician who ever lived”) - who in turn have influenced subsequent generations of musicians.

However, rumours swirled about Johnson’s involvement with the occult even before his premature death – aged just 27 – in 1938. His seemingly instantaneous mastery of the Blues gave rise to legends that he had made a deal with the Devil, who had given Johnson his skills in return for his everlasting soul. Tales circulated of the young black musician from Mississippi who had taken his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery’s plantation at midnight, and met there with a large man who took the guitar and tuned it, and gave Johnson mastery of the instrument in a Faustian bargain. Within a year of this fabled meeting, Johnson was recognised as one of the greatest Delta Blues musicians…but within two more years, he had met his end – and, we suppose, delivered on his side of the contract.

Johnson’s song titles provide a vivid reflection of his occult ties. “Hellhound on my Trail”, “Me and the Devil Blues”, and the narrative of “Crossroad Blues” (“Went down to the crossroads, bent down on my knees”) all add colour to the myths surrounding this seminal musician. But as Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh point out in their book The Elixir and the Stone, these allusions to the occult world are a fundamental part of the Blues, not least due to its origins in the music of Voodoo:

For Sale: Legendary Loch Ness Property

Welp, if this isn't the place for relocating Daily Grail HQ, I don't know what is: Part of the legendary Boleskine Estate bordering Loch Ness (former home of occultist Aleister Crowley and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page) is up for sale:

[A] 1.9-acre plot on the former estate has been put on the market for £176,000 with planning permission for a three-bedroom log house, and 140ft of the Loch Ness foreshore.

"There's been a great deal of interest in the plot because of the Crowley connection. We've had various enquiries from all over the place. People do tend to be interested in things that are sinister, but we've also had enquiries from people who just want a base in the Highlands with some nice views over Loch Ness," said Kevin Maley, of Inverness agents Strutt and Parker.

"The house and plot are owned by different people. The plot has been in the same family for the last 40 years, but the owner has decided it's time to go. It's an unusual one in that it's being sold with planning permission for a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, but it would make a perfect holiday cottage," he said.

That would of course be if your "perfect holiday" involves summoning up astral zooforms in order to do the bidding of your black heart.

Nick Redfern wrote a detailed article in Darklore Volume 2 (Amazon US and UK) about this very topic, titled "What Lies Beneath: There's More Than Just a Monster to the Loch Ness Mystery". He covered not only the Page-Crowley-Boleskine topic, but also Men in Black sightings, Big Cat sightings, Kelpie myths of the area, occult rites and exorcisms, and much more. Of course, you already have DL2 don't you, so I'm preaching to the choir here...

Now, let me check my pockets for that £176,000.

Alan Moore on Magick and Imagination

Disinfo.com have posted a podcast interview with Alan Moore, creator/writer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and much mo(o)re. (For those reading this at a later date in the archives, here's the direct link.) It's a great chat, with Moore discussing various aspects of the crossover between magick (of which he is knowledgable, and a practitioner) and the imagination, apocalyptic information overflow, and what he's currently working on. In there you'll hear of Moore's (rather) spooky experiences of 'meeting' John Constantine, how his upcoming book on the magickal arts will include a pop-up altar and a Kabbalah boardgame, and how Paracelsus had a backwards angelic language a century before Dr John Dee. The podcast begins with an interview with DeZ Vylenz, (producer and director of the documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore) so if you're in a rush, Alan Moore comes in around a third of the way into the podcast.

Just nobody tell this fanboi that he's part of a magickal experiment, he might pop a fuse...

Embracing Your Daimonic Genius

At TED this year, author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) took the audience into strange territory in her talk about creativity, expectation and the killing of genius. Unbelievably, Gilbert managed to receive a standing ovation from the scientifically-minded TED crowd after a monologue in which she asked whether we should embrace the ancient conception of genius and creativity being external and separate to us. Basically, she suggested we return to the idea that gods and daimons possess us at times - at least as a psychological crutch. Here's the talk in its entirety:

It really is a breath of fresh air to see this sort of talk getting a positive response from the upper echelons of science and technology. In this post-Dawkins era, when someone like Phil Plait feels he needs to add a caveat just for typing the descriptive word 'magical', I get rather frustrated with the worship of literal thought to the exclusion of metaphor and myth. It's good to see someone standing up for the 'real', everyday human mind like this.

For those who are interested in Gilbert's discussion of daimons and the like, check out Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld. Harpur ties this sort of creative inspiration as the internal manifestation of 'contact' with this 'daimonic reality', and suggests many paranormal events are the outward manifestation:

The first of the great Neoplatonists, Plotinus (AD 204-70), maintained that the individual daimon was "not an anthropomorphic daemon, but an inner psychological principle, viz: the level above that on which we consciously live, and so is both within us and yet transcendent" (author's emphasis). Like Jung, he takes it as read that daimons are objective phenomena and thinks to emphasize only that, paradoxically, they manifest both inwardly (dreams, inspirations, thoughts, fantasies) and outwardly or transcendently (visions and apparitions).

A fascinating talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, and a great book by Patrick Harpur - check them both out if you get the chance.

Occult Nazis - The Jung Case

by Gary Lachman.

Gary Lachman's new book Politics and the Occult: The Left, The Right, and the Radically Unseen is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.


Dark Sides: The Jung Case

Although Hitler apparently had little interest in the occult - as Mark Sedgwick writes, “Hitler had no sympathy for occultism of any variety,” - he had close contact with people who did, and the Nazi movement, while not the product of “black brotherhoods” or diabolical “unknown superiors,” was certainly amenable to some occult influences. Himmler’s SS infamously incorporated runic, pagan, and Grail elements and was deeply influenced by the ideas of the occultist Karl Maria Wiligut. One SS officer, Otto Rahn, wrote a bestselling book, Crusade against the Grail, associating the Cathars with the Grail legend. Hermann Wirth, author of the monumental The Rise of Mankind, used meditation to view the past and argued, like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, that the Aryan race began in the frozen north. In 1935 Wirth was a co-founder of the notorious Ahnenerbe, the Nazi “research unit” devoted to uncovering Germany’s ancestral Aryan heritage, whose efforts included sending the SS explorer Ernst Schäfer to the Himalayas to measure Tibetan skulls. And while Hitler himself may have rejected occultism, he was certainly aware of “the power of myth,” a phrase familiar to viewers of the journalist Bill Moyers’ fantastically successful series of interviews with the mythologist Joseph Campbell.

The electrifying power of the swastika; Albert Speer’s dazzling lighting effects at the Nuremberg rallies; Hitler’s “demonic” oratory and his own deification as the Führer; the romantic vision of a bucolic Germany rooted in “blood and soil,” as opposed to an urban, mechanical modernity - all were part of the myth of National Socialism that Hitler and his followers sold to an interested public. A myth was instrumental in Hitler’s success, the dark lie voiced in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Whether the Protocols were “true” or not probably never occurred to Hitler; what was important was that they agreed with his own views and that, like himself, many people believed they were true. (The people who believed in the Protocols weren’t necessarily unintelligent; one of their most fervent supporters was Henry Ford, father of the assembly line and mass production. Like many influential people, faced with evidence that the Protocols were forged, Ford refused to believe it.) Like the French syndicalist George Sorrel and the political philosopher Leo Strauss, Hitler knew that in politics, myth is often more important than the “truth,” a difficult commodity to pin down at any time. Reason and rationality are boring and demand effort. Myth bypasses the inhibitions of the critical mind, and reaches down to the vital forces below. This is what makes it exciting and enlivening. It is also what makes it dangerous. In saying this I am not arguing “against” myth, merely pointing out that it entails something more than just “following your bliss.”

Yet many at the time were willing to risk the danger and embrace myth over reason. One was the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung, perhaps more than anyone else, the single most important figure in the reawakening of spiritual thought in modern times. Although for much of his career Jung obscured his interest in the occult, in his later years his writings on Gnosticism, alchemy, the paranormal, spiritualism, and even flying saucers brought these otherwise marginal areas into the field of respectable research.