Reviews

Not sure what to expect at the Esoteric Book Conference? Here is a review of the 2010 conference, written by Ariock Van de Voorde (originally on the Starfire Publishing Facebook page), to give you some ideas.

Day 1

2010 brought the “Second Coming” of the Seattle Esoteric Book Conference. After the inaugural EBC, the organizers had much to live up to. Many who attended were publicly vocal in their praise, which helped spread the word of the event and increased anticipation for it. The EBC crew was aware of this, and openly solicited ideas, advice and criticism to enable them to produce a second conference that would not disappoint. For 2010, they stacked their deck with deep and varied talent to attempt another interesting and enjoyable weekend.

The conference set-up remained the same; a book fair and art show open to all, and a presentation hall for ticket holders. The book fair attracted many returning vendors from the previous year, including JD Holmes, Fulgur Limited, Ajna Bound, Feral House/Process Media and Ars Obscura. There were also a couple new vendors, and most returning tables increased their selection of titles. I noticed an increase this year of rare and high-ticket items as well. Once again, the offerings in the book fair represented a wide range of interests. The art show featured works from Anima Nocturna, Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule, J.F. Uccello, Bryan Ward, Barry William Hale, and Daniel Schulke. Much like the book fair floor, the art show increased the quantity and different types of items displayed/offered.

The presentation hall is the big draw for many attendees. While there were a few familiar faces, many of the presenters were new this year, and all delivered fresh content. A personal highlight of the EBC for me is that many friends from very far off places make their way to town for the event. This was the case for 2010, which led me into many engagements outside of the conference for the weekend. As such, my review will not be as comprehensive as the previous year’s. Beyond this, I’ve lost most of my notes and am relying on the memory of a brain that has spent long vacations outside the circles of time…

The opening presentation was “The Spoken Aspects of Ritual from the Ancient Mysteries to present day Occult Societies” by Debra Chesnut. This lecture on language in ritual drew from her Western Esotericism MA dissertation. Debra covered a wide range of related topics including Odin’s ravens, shamanism, the Eastern Mysteries, the Nag Hammadi texts, the Hymn to Mithra, Zoroastrianism and more. Essentially she explored what is said – and how it is said, as a key factor in rituals and invocations. If you are using the wrong pronunciation, are you calling a “wrong number”?

Up next was an interesting added feature to the presentation hall; the Artist Panel. This was a moderated discussion and audience Q&A session with Hale, Orryelle, Schulke, Uccello, and Ward. As an artist, I sometime have a hard time articulating the “why” of what I do, and this is generally a question most asked. It was brought to the panel as well in the forms of being asked what inspires them and why they do what they do. “Obsession”, “Compulsion”, “Devotion”, and “Possession” were some of the words used in answers across the panel. Said Schulke, “Art is like oxygen or sex… it is something you need to exist”. When asked what “occult art” was, Uccello answered, “Art done right is always occult”.

David Beth took the stage after an all-night bout with food poisoning almost knocked him out of the proceedings. Perhaps not the most ideal conditions under which to give a presentation, however he did not want to disappoint. Judging by both the attendance for this session, the interested in the form of the post-lecture Q&A, and later lines for the signing of his book Voudon Gnosis (launched that weekend), this was something of a “main event” for the conference.

David’s lecture, “The Dark Doctrine”, concerned Qliphoth and Nightside work, especially as to how they pertained to Esoteric Voudon. Although considered the “sinister path” David explained how successful navigation through “the great wastes of meta-kosmic darkness” can lead to a road of supreme realization. Through the “darkness that shines” one explores and finds Gnosis and is transformed.

David explained the concepts of Universe A & B and the Nightside Tree through the lens of the Esoteric Voudon workings of La Société Voudon Gnostique. He also looked at the Voudon mythological correlations to concepts familiar to students of the works of Kenneth Grant, A.O. Spare and of course Michael Bertiaux.

The Q&A session was interesting as students of multiple disciplines asked many good questions and received varied degrees of satisfaction from the answers. Said one attendee who was searching for illumination, “I’m very clear on what you are not”. Due to time constraints, the session had to be cut; however David continued to speak with the curious at his book signing where, according to book seller JD Holmes who was representing Fulgur, a “significant chunk” of the limited run ofVoudon Gnosis got into the hands of conference attendees.

Brief interview with David Beth;

Ariock – If I am not mistaken, this event marked your 1st “public” presentation in North America. This was followed by the 1st Société Voudon Gnostique group ritual on the continent. What was it about the EBC that drew you to its forum?

David – Indeed, it was my first public presentation in the US. Before this I had only given private instructions and lectures to students there. During my many visits and lengthy stays in Chicago I would also make a few ‘surprise’ appearances to deliver a small presentation at the Masses of a Gnostic Bishop whom I had consecrated into the episcopate years ago on the behalf of my good friend Michael Bertiaux.

I had received a lot of requests over the past 10 years to do a public event in the USA but never found either the time or the right environment to do so. It was only around 2006 that I decided to release selected writings publicly and begin to give a few public talks. Before this, I preferred to keep my work in the ‘inner’ and only work with the members of the esoteric groups I was involved with. It was mainly Michael Bertiaux, with whom I spent many months in Chicago over the years, who suggested and prompted me to share some of my work with a wider esoteric public. When the signs from the spirits pointed into the same direction, I began to give lectures and seminars, but usually not more than a handful a year. I tend to be very selective in regards to whom I work with, and I have to either know the organizers personally or they would have to be recommended to me.

With the EBC, all the factors came together. I met Catamara (Rosarium, EBC Hostess) at the Equinox Festival in London where I had given a presentation. I also knew of the rather exceptional work of William (Kiesel, EBC Host) with Ouroboros Press, so I was confident that the event would be professional with a focus I could identify with. Some of my occult friends and associates from London presented at the EBC the previous year and had only promising news to report. I have to say that my trust in the EBC was very well rewarded. Despite a little health set-back, I had an exceptionally good time; the hosts were fabulous and so was the audience!

Ariock – Tell us a little about your presentation, the Dark Doctrine?

David – The presentation on the Dark Doctrine consisted mainly in summarizing some key aspects of the philosophy and approach of initiates of Voudon Gnosis to what the Western Esoteric systems usually refer to as the Qliphoth. Our work in the Société Voudon Gnostique includes the investigation and use of energies and magical forms that, while unique to our system, can be related to an audience unfamiliar with our inner workings through the grammar of the Tree of Life (much of what I spoke about in this presentation was included as a new chapter in the Fulgur edition of my book ‘Voudon Gnosis‘ which we launched at the EBC 2010). While this relating of concepts is possible for the sake of understanding, it is only a crutch to move deeper into the world of Esoteric Voudon. Some of my forthcoming works will address the essence of the Dark Doctrine of Voudon Gnosis strictly from the position of the Esoteric Voudoist in the form of grimoires.

The lunch break was fascinating for me, as the SVG crew and the Fulgur Limited contingent met to discuss the production of the SVG’s journal, ATUA. Robert Ansell, AKA the Occult James Bond, is a very interesting person to watch brainstorm ideas. It seems as though he visualizes the entire production of a work in his mind; he is selecting and procuring materials, working through significant texture and colour combinations, and imagining dimensions, all the while inputting the ideas of others (or politely pausing with a smile at the occasional bad idea, and then getting right back to it). In the end, my expectations for the book were quite high and ended up blown away when viewing the finished work. One can see how Fulgur Limited can consistently produce high-quality materials with such a hands-on and visionary managing director. While not a sanctioned “EBC event”, this was one of those really cool “bonus moments” brought about from the existence of the conference.

Back at the presentation hall, Daniel Schulke delivered an illustrated presentation on the Richel-Eldermans Collection at the Museum of Witchcraft. This was a private collection built for about 100 years of papers and ritual objects of various occult practitioners/groups. With much predating modern Wicca, this is a fascinating collection of rarely seen aspects of European witchcraft and ritual. Three Hands Press (a “sister” publishing house of Xoanon) produced a book titled the Occult Reliquary, which showcases some of the thousands of items and images from this collection. Schulke highlighted many of these and discussed them with points illustrated by his own experience with the Cultus Sabbati. Fascinating images and compelling stories.

As a bit of an “ad” for companies or authors considering participation in the EBC, much like Scarlet Imprint’s presentation the year before, this informative and “non-commercial” lecture immediate stimulated purchases in the book fair afterwards, and increased interest in the Reliquary in the weeks following the conference.

Saturday evening brought the entertainment portion of the conference. This year’s line-up included psycho-delic ritual musicians the Master Musicians of Bukkake (who should be given a Grammy for their name), Tuvan throat singer Soriah, and a ritual performance from NOKO.

As a fan of Legion 49, my particular interest this evening was with NOKO. NOKO is the brainchild of Barry William Hale, designed to enhance and aid in his esoteric research. Collaborating with Mike Strum and Scott Barnes, this performance brought to life aspects of a project they are working on called Hypercube 210. This project, which will be released by Fulgur, will be a multimedia package and judging by the light in Robert Ansell’s eyes when he spoke about it, it will be impressive.

The stage included a large Enochian tablet and a projection screen. The screen’s images constantly evolved and melted into themselves and the sound textures did the same, all while Barry quite literally raised hell on the microphone. When the performance ended, the crowd more or less sat in a trance for a moment before reacting. It was intense and stimulating.

Day 2

Sunday’s presentations started with Denny Sargent giving a history of the Horus/Maat Lodge. Denny delivered his presentation with something that many “occultists” are sorely missing; a sense of humour. I feel that not taking yourself too seriously eases growth and can display a certain maturity if not overdone. Unless your end goal is to be miserable, the ability to have a good time, enjoy life, and laugh also displays success in your workings. I’ll now hop back off the esoteric soap box.

Denny started with a self-depreciating review of the HML; their linage dating back to Atlantis or Lemuria or Mu (whichever came FIRST), and of course their Masonic and Satanic connections. He then moved on to a brief overview of the Lodge and the evolution of the H/M Double Current. Stories of interactions with Nema and Kenneth Grant were interesting, as were the “early days” recollections of the Lodge’s 30 years. Said Denny, “There were no iPhones, no computers, and no internet back then. There were dinosaurs. They were delicious…”

After an extended lunch break with my people, we moved on back to the presentation hall for Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule contribution, “And the Fourth Fate shall Bind Thee”. The talk initially concerned his Tela Quadrivium. This is a series of talismanic books which breeds, evolves, mutates and gives birth to images and ideas over the course of multiple volumes. It is fairly difficult to explain without visuals. The presentation contained images from these works, showing how many seemingly complete images from one volume blend with images from another to create something new or whole. Although a very serious artist, Orryelle displayed some clever humour when the projector malfunctioned. He had just shown an image and explained that Maat represented absolute truth and took no true form. There was a glitch in moving to the next image and after he toiled with it, he smiled and said “and there is Maat again” referencing the blank screen and his previous statement of “no true form”.

He is one of my brothers and knows it is meant as a compliment when I say that Orryelle is weird. Although such presentations are generally orderly affairs, in the spirit of his ChAOrder, this one fell apart like the Tower of Babel. Although this was done by design, this fact was not readily apparent to all attendees. The lecture had turned to the subject of the Tower, and then faded as voices of men and animals cried out from multiple points in the room, taking attention from the key speaker while at the same time illustrating his point. A person in front of me turned to his neighbor and said “what the fuck is going on?”. The person behind me, who I knew, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered the same question into my ear. An artist who inspires is doing their “job”, and Orryelle seemed to inspire equal parts admiration and confusion (wonder and wander?).

I later spent some time on the Book Fair floor, spending too much money and conversing with vendors and attendees. As mentioned in last year’s review, I have a soft spot in my heart for Feral House. Not only did their books sell well in my old bookstore, I also find many of them entertaining and have at least a couple dozen in the Black Lotus Kult Library. I spent some time at the FH table speaking to Timothy Wyllie about his book Love Sex Fear Death that was released the previous year. His story of his time with the Process Church of the Final Judgment is compelling and among others, the story of Process Church inspired the Temple of Psychick Youth, Coil, Current 93, Skinny Puppy, and the Process art and philosophy collective. Wyllie’s more recent work concerns communication with non-terrestrial entities, and would be of interest to students of Grant and Bertiaux. Also an exceptional painter, perhaps he would make a great future EBC speaker?

Ah subtlety.

The EBC was to conclude this year with a lecture by Caroline Wise on Florence Farr, followed by a production of Farr’s play “The Shrine of the Golden Hawk“. Caroline’s relationship with Florence Farr began via direct communication (despite Farr’s death in 1917). In her presentation, Caroline gave a general history and bio of this complex woman’s life, as well as making some excellent points about the women of the Golden Dawn, who are often historically overshadowed by their comparatively incompetent male counterparts.

As an actress, magician, writer, proto-feminist, lover and more, Farr lived a fiery life and in a fitting end, was cremated on a Hindu funeral pyre after her fight with breast cancer. It was her death that also came up in conversation with Caroline, as Farr instructed her to produce two of her plays and to donate the money raised from the productions to a breast cancer charity.

One of those plays was The Shrine of the Golden Hawk, which had its North American premier following this presentation. Caroline produced the play in 1993, after its previous performance in 1905. The general consensus from attendees, Caroline, and fellow her presenters and artists was that the EBC’s production was magnificent.

Brief interview with Caroline Wise;

Ariock – I understand that this was the 1st North American production of The Shrine of the Golden Hawk?

Caroline – Yes, The Shrine of the Golden Hawk is a one act ritual drama written by Florence Farr in 1901 after she had severed connection with the Golden Dawn and joined the Theosophical Society. It was performed for the TS at their Second Annual Congress of the European Section in London in 1905.

The Shrine is Farr’s swansong to the GD. With wit and a deep understanding of magic and Egyptian cosmology, Farr gently sends up the male magician, who sees the magic focused in the talisman, the shrine, the rites, the superstition, and the personal. He is humbled by a Priestess of Isis, a Priestess of the Mysteries, who understands that wisdom is the key; that it is for all, and that it must come into the heart for understanding of the mysteries. The priestess herself is guided by her Ka, her ‘sister soul’. The scene where she dances in ecstasy is thrilling as she declares;

“Let my feet move now in triumph to the music of the worlds beyond space, where thy mighty heart beats out the rhythm, making the worlds to fall and rise in their order, and the stars to follow in their courses! I am drunk with conquest, and I shake the sistrum and dance with my naked feet unscathed upon thy golden floor! And the measures I dance are to me as the movement of a great army which has scaled the awful walls of thy majesty, and taken the fortress of thy wisdom!”

I revived The Shrine of the Golden Hawk in 1993, along with Farr’s other play, (co-authored with Olivia Shakespear) the “Beloved of Hathor“, at the Rudolf Steiner Theatre in London. There have been 2 more intimate performances of the plays as ritual readings at Treadwell’s Bookshop. The showing at the EBC was the first ever production outside of London.

Ariock – Can you tell us a little about your initial 1993 production of The Shrine of the Golden Hawk? I imagine it was difficult to revive something relatively obscure in terms of reference resources.

Caroline – It was hard to find the scripts and took a long time. They are rare, and in those pre-Google days, it was difficult even for a bookseller to track them down. They were generously provided by an old friend. After finding a cast of willing witches and occultists, I was presented with a magical rehearsal space in the form of the crypt of Hawksmoor’s church in Bloomsbury (without the knowledge of the vicar, with whom I did not get on). The ground plan of this church had cheekily been laid out by Hawksmoor to the dimensions of the Temple in the ancient world, the portico was based on the Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, and the statue on top of the spire mocked the king.

The vicar’s secretary slipped me the key every rehearsal day and it was in the sacred depths of this temple that after work for 2 days a week for 6 months, we merrily invoked Horus underneath the Christian altar. I do not think this has any connection with the later scandal involving the then vicar and the News of the World

Ariock – Will you please share your overall impression of this showing at the EBC?

Caroline – It was a brilliant experience for me, to see something that had been seeded in a séance back in the 1980s in England travelling to the US. The production was brilliant and dynamic and had me in tears of laughter, yet moved me to tears too. The US production brought out the humour well, and that worked for a big hall. Florence Farr gave very few directions and wanted minimal set design, and so it is left to each new production team to interpret it how they will, which takes some courage and dedication. The EBC players did a fantastic job. I dedicated the programme booklet to Clive Harper.

The monies raised from Caroline’s productions of Farr’s plays were donated to Breast Cancer Care (formerly the Breast Care and Mastectomy association of Great Britain). After the Seattle production, it was announced that the Hawk talisman designed by Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule and used in the performance would be auctioned for this cause.

In the week after the EBC, we were driving to the Black Lotus Kult Celebration party to unwind from the events of the Conference. On the drive Caroline gave me the story of the “Fall of the Vicar” referenced above, and noted how the Hawk seems to strike after productions of The Shrine

We were delayed in arriving at the party as an explosion rocked the industrial area of Seattle and a 4-alarm fire raged in an old nut factory.

Hawks love nuts.

If you would like to share your review of the conference, please contact us.