It’s been a while since I wrote anything for this blog. Honestly, I’ve not had much of substance to say at any of my blogs for a while, other than a cooperative effort for Invisable Illness Awareness, which wound up posting at a few of my other blogs and Facebook, but not here.
This weekend past, I attended the Sunday session of the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle. I had planned to attend both Saturday and Sunday, but awoke with a severe enough migraine on Saturday to keep me hiding in bed a fair part of the day.
As a result, I missed Richard Kaczynski’s presentation Saturday on the history and interconnections of 19th century occult orders and secret societies, a topic that I have a somewhat passing interest in. Such is life.
Sunday, however, I braved the roads and headed in to a city that I used to love; these days, it is an effort of Will to enter into it. Sad, on many levels, but there are far too many people, too much traffic and too much confusion for me to deal with most days there.
Several people that I knew personally were in attendance, and several more that I know from their on-line presence; some of both were presenting, others were there as vendors, or both.
First up was Dr. Amy Hale, speaking about Ithell Colquhuon, an occultist and artist in the Surrealist movement. Amply illustrated with slides of her work, this was an informative and entertaining look at a woman who is possibly the most prolific occultists of the 20th century – a member of several magical Orders including the OTO, the Golden Dawn, the Martinist Order, Co-Masonry; the list could and does go on. One quote I delighted in from the talk on the overt phallicism of her art was that “Ithell never shied away from the penis” (another comment, describing a particular piece of art was that it was a “very exciting and tumescent piece of asparagus…”). One appreciates bits of humor in what could otherwise be long dry lectures…
I skipped out on Michael Staley’s second presentation of the weekend discussing Kenneth Grant, opting to go for food and drink with a few friends instead, and we arrived back shortly before Brandy Williams’ presentation on The Chaldean Oracles.
Brandy eloquently covered the basics one would want on history, translation, etc., of the Oracle fragments, and then proceeded into how they may have been used in ritual that is easily adaptable for modern, personal use, including a fascinating comparison to the stages of practice suggested within them and some practices from Shinto as currently practiced. I found it extremely insightful and useful.
Next up was Christina Oakley Harrington, of Treadwell’s Bookstore in London, with the topic of “Flesh of My Flesh on the Ecstasy of the Page”. Beginning with a brief history of the Grimoire Tradition in Western Europe, she turned her focus to the apparent contradiction contained within them – that the Operator must be made pure and holy and sanctified, for the purposes of granting very venial desires (such as having a woman transported to your rooms, her clothes removed, etc… Deeply spiritual motives, I’m certain.) She continued with a more personal look at the lineage that can be contained within such Books, and the experiences one can have while hand copying them; she cited a personal example of being aware of copying a text from her teacher, with an overlay of her teaching sitting 30 years earlier and copying it from her teacher, and so back. Having experienced something similar myself, I could distinctly relate to it.
This was an excellent lead-up to Robert Ansell (of Fulgar Publishing) and his topic of “Bound by the Devil: The Arte of Talismanic Books”. this was another well illustraded presentation that, in many ways, detailed his personal journey as a publisher, blending his personal experiences with anecdotal and philosophical observations on the magical nature of publishing and the creation of such texts, summing up with the idea of tyranny taking many forms, and that all of them have in common a “homogenizing advance”; to illustrate this, he showed a photo of the Kindle, and talked about how the publishing industry and its reliance upon things like ISBN numbers literally ends up undermining the uniqueness of what this conference itself was about, and reinforced my understanding of Ansell’s deep and abiding love of books, noted in a earlier discussion at the Fulgar table where he was discussing different papers, bindings and such. Many others expressed similar love throughout the day, and if anything, provided a common ground for all who were in attendance.
The entire afternoon could have been scripted as preparation for Daniel Schulke’s talk on “Trajectories of Magical Text in Charming Traditions” (and may well have been planned exactly for that.) This session dealt with traditional oral charms and magical lineages, and how these things become textual and make use of texts, such as the Meresburg Charm and variants of it found in diverse locations from Europe to the Appalachia. Topics covered ranged from Old High German Himmelsbrief — or “Letter from Heaven” and Johann Georg Hohman’s Long Lost Friend to the use of books as physical talismans for charms to expel demonic spirits (wherein mere possession of the book is enough to do this, with a lengthy exposition of the charming and grimoire traditions of the Cultus Sabbati and others. Delightfully illustrated, he further discussed the concept of Hidden Books – usually in the form of inclusions within a limited edition book that are unique, and which form a book-within-a-book when they are all assembled together, again citing the books of Andrew Chumbley and his own work. I do wish he had been available for discussion following, but he appeared to have left the site shortly following his lecture.
However, I was still in the after-effects of the previous day’s migraine, and in a fair amount of pain from walking about the Seattle Center during breaks and decided I should leave while I was still able to function well enough to drive home and chose to forego the final presentation, a musical composition by Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney, which I’m told was well-worth attending, and I have regrets that I did miss it. However, as they are “local” musicians, it is possible that I will encounter another such opportunity in the future.
I’ll only briefly mention that the brain-fog was sufficient to force me into a lengthy search for my vehicle, as I could no longer remember where I had parked. It turned out to be in the opposite direction of where I had gone, which required close to an hour to find.
One of the non-scheduled events was a highlight of my day — running in to an old friend from my days at DSHS, and reconnecting with him. We exchanged phone numbers and I hope we will be able to remain in closer contact now.
Still, all in all a very worthwhile experience, and I plan on attending should there be another next year, as is currently anticipated.