A few of my readers might be aware that, in 2015 and 2019, I published two novellas under the name Nathan Mortlock; Everybody Needs a Hobby and Khaos at Trinity Road. I spent very little time and no money promoting them as self published works, but they do have accolades from Pat Mills on their covers. Nevertheless, the only ‘story form’ book I have been promoting under my own name is my autobiographical novel Accidental Antichrist, which received a great review in Starburst (the world’s longest running science fiction and fantasy magazine), as well as an interview being published on their website (read it here). I have neglected promoting my fictional writings only through fear of causing confusion regarding my sincerity with anything else I have to say. I am sure most people are smart enough to realise that writing satisfying fiction has nothing to do with being a ‘liar’.
If anything, I write because it is cheaper than therapy. After hearing the awful disclosures in 2012, learning how so many people I knew had been involved in such shameful crimes, of what had happened to the young man disclosing during their childhood, I was suffering grief beyond description. If my entire family had died in a car accident the world would have understood, and perhaps I could have got the therapy I deserved. This was worse, since even my memories of them became tainted. Note that in Colin Batley’s trial those in the jury were all offered therapy, and they were not even hearing about their own family, loved ones, and children. My heart was so broken I thought it might literally kill me – the pain was physical and constant. I was so afraid and angry my pupils were like junkie pinpricks, but I had gone nowhere near any drugs. And I had nightmares every night, like I don’t want to tell you. About being unable to stop the most horrible things happening, and of begging the guilty to confess to the police. But since police had made such a cock up of investigating our case, there was no way I could get the appropriate help I needed. I lost a series of jobs because the most unexpected things would trigger me, and I would be unable to stop myself crying. And I was frightened, because not only were the guilty left to walk around freely they were actually stalking us – one of those stalking us being the paedophile psychopath Frank Parker, who was featured in Panorama: Exposed – The Bail Hostel Scandal.
At this time I had ‘disappeared’ from occultism, and was considering changing my name legally in the hope of getting on with my life without further harassment and abuse. I have always enjoyed writing fiction, had been published in a few ‘underground’ magazines in the distant past, and decided to write a novella. As with most ‘inspiration’ I cannot really explain this book, except to say that many people who read it raved about it, a few were indifferent, some said I was sick, and it might have lost me another job after my team manager read a copy, but my nightmares stopped.
I had suffered indescribable nightmares, waking up in tears, almost every night for years, and all of a sudden they stopped. Seriously.
It was a made up story. Nothing in that book happened to any real people. It did not reference the genuine horrors we had been suffering, but it was a story set in Bristol about a wannabe Satanist psychopath, and could only be marketed as ‘extreme horror’; I called this story Everybody Needs a Hobby.
The next book, Khaos at Trinity Road, might be described as ‘surrealist crime’. It was hardly pushed at all over the internet but I sold quite a few straight from my hand in my home city – especially among those familiar with Trinity Road police station. By the most bizarre coincidence, Trinity Road also features in the crime novel Ritual by Mo Hayder, in which arrogant officers stationed there screw up an investigation into a ritual murder. It seems my novella reflected a certain degree of popular sentiment.
Is it also mere ‘coincidence’ that, soon after the publication of my novella, the now ex-commissioner of Trinity Road found themselves the subject of discussion in parliament and the station has been closed? (The sign on its door reading Police Work Will Not Be Effected?) Who knows for sure.. but there was definitely a more contrived ‘statement of intent’ behind Khaos at Trinity Road than my previous novella.
Additionally, I have been told a copy may be found in the library of Marmalade Lane psychiatric facility, also featured in that book – where I found myself when an officer at Trinity Road had me placed under a Section 23 because he ‘could not believe’ their was a Satanic paedo ring operating right under his nose.. this being an involuntary incarceration to determine whether I was mentally ill, supposed to last a month, from which I found myself discharged and proven sane after three days. This was in 2012, very soon after hearing the disclosures, which were extremely difficult to ‘handle’, we had also suffered home invasions and stalking, so I had understandably been acting pretty off the rail by normal standards. Despite what a certain ex-partner of mine has been spreading around the ‘occult community’, this is the one and only time I have ever been sectioned, and I can now say I have been examined by professional psychiatrists and found to be perfectly sane, thank you very much. For a copy of my book to have made its own way to the library there, to be read by the staff and found by someone who should read it during a stay and recognise my name – and emailing me from there – seems like a kind of magic.. especially when they tell me they found the story healing.
Some have expressed confusion as to how my fictional writings relate to my occult treatise, such as The Neuronomicon. I can only express my own confusion at how anyone could separate spirituality, magic, and art of any kind. It seems to me that only a talentless fool would even try, and even then it would only be through jealousy towards those with talent. Novelist and ‘Chaos’ magician William Burroughs had much to say on the relationship between magic and art. Influential comics genius, novelist, and magician Alan Moore also talks about the relationship between magic and art. Kenneth Grant, a hugely influential occult philosopher, humbly considered the talented artist to be a higher form of ‘initiate’ than the mere magician, as well as having written a few obscure novellas of his own. The relationship is so close it baffles me that so many modern ‘magicians’ seem to be devoid of any artistic talent.
Whatever our spiritual beliefs we tend to refer to myths and stories, which we may interpret as being either literally true (as with most Christians) or as symbolic (as with Jungian psychology). This is especially so with occultists, who tend to familiarity with the myths and stories of many cultures and traditions (as with Perrenial philosophy). As both an occultist and fiction writer I see the same Laws in the construction of magical ritual as I do in the myth cycles they refer to, as well as in the construction of satisfying modern fiction. The most obvious of these is the repetition of archetypes, a term most will be familiar from through its modern use in psychology but which is rooted in the Hermetic tradition. The most successful blockbuster stories, from ancient mythology through to Christ, from Star Wars to Harry Potter, are all structured around the same solar-hero myth cycle (the ‘yellow ray’). In all the world’s oldest spiritual traditions we see the Law of Seven, which I have called in The Neuronomicon the Seven Powers; hence we have a week of seven days named after the seven primary powers in any culture. In any satisfying story this same Law of Seven is reflected also in the ‘seven plots’, defined by Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots (a must for any writer) as Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. We also see the Law of Three, common to all magical traditions, reflected in the classical three act structure – all satisfying stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
As an artist I rely on that mysterious thing called ‘inspiration’. If anybody asked me where my ideas come from I would have to say they visit me, arriving of their own accord. I find it almost impossible to sit down and have an idea on purpose, just by willing myself to do so. The etymology of the word inspiration takes us via Old French to the Latin verb inspirare, meaning ‘divine guidance’. This points us to the relationship between artistic inspiration and magical practices such as divination, which is the practice of gaining ‘divine guidance’ through various (often but not always) ritualised methods. We might liken the free flow of inspired writing to spirit divination through ‘automatic writing’. The creation of a character that seems to tell us its own story might be likened to a successful evocation – perhaps a ‘Tulpa’ (Thought Form), or one of the archetypal ‘powers’. We often speak of an artist or writer’s ability to evoke certain feelings, or describe their work simply as ‘evocative’.
An effective ritualist or story teller must also be able to hypnotise, or ‘fascinate’. Think of what happens when you are gripped by a good story, perhaps reading a book. Awareness of the world around you diminishes, so much so you might be unaware of someone talking to you, or forget to get off at your train station. Perhaps the story is so gripping, its world so absorbing, that you find yourself transported, experiencing yourself as both in your physical time and place and in the story world. We might compare this common, everyday experience to a kind of hypnotic trance or dream. In the remote viewing community the experience of being in two places is referred to as ‘bi-location’. The occult texts speak of ‘astral projection’ and ‘spirit journeys’. A masterfully written fictional story can give a reader real world experiences, from emotions to shifts in consciousness, and even spiritual learning.
Perhaps we identify so strongly with a character we find ourselves feeling the same emotions they are going through. When this happens, when we feel with tor even for a character, our mirror neurons are responding just the same as if the character was a real, living, breathing person. Some of the worst prose and tackiest plots often make best sellers and even get made into ‘movies’ so long their stories have regularly shifting emotional ‘beats’, with many smaller beats along the way culminating in pinnacles in strict accord with the three act structure. Additionally, there is a fine line between a cliché and an archetype – however originally the archetypes and plots are intertwined to make any original story, characters that veer too widely from their archetype are difficult to identify with, and stories that veer too widely from the ‘seven basic plots’ are instinctively unsatisfactory, regardless of how original or outside the box their twist ending these stories do not stay with us like the ‘classics’ do.
The Neuronomicon is still spreading its tentacles, as are The Sorcerer’s Yi-Jing, The Mass of Baphomet, and other related materials. I have nothing significant to add at this time, so have returned to writing fiction; this time not as therapy, or to curse any police stations, but with a view to finding an agent and publisher. I get more enjoyment from it that non-fiction, regardless of any perceived levels of ‘success’. Future posts on this blog will no doubt reflect this. I am still who I have always been, and shall be applying everything I have learned in my magical workings, experiments, and writings, to my fiction. I shall also be typing all day, every day, so have less desire to write additional materials for this blog – but I shall keep making updates if I have significant reason. Apologies if I am tardy answering emails.
Meanwhile, my two novellas written as Nathan Mortlock remain available from Amazon.. for now.
The first time I met the ghost of Austin Osman Spare was in the Summer of 1988, not long before my eighteenth birthday. I was boarding at my grandmother’s, in her witchy town cottage. As friends, relatives, and readers of Accidental Antichrist will know, she was a ‘spiritualist medium’, which Spare might have frowned on, and also a hereditary East Anglian witch, which he would have respected. Not that I knew either of these things at the time. Although I had recently acquired a badly photocopied collection of his written works, accompanied by some vaguely discernible illustrations, I had yet to learn much about him. Nowhere in the collected works did it say anything about his connection to Essex witchcraft.
One day during the summer I broke into a terrifying fever, my stomach a swelling ball of poison, and passed out. My grandmother rang round every doctor in Colchester before she finally got through to one who did not fob her off.
Watching from the ruins of a monastery stronghold, a glassless stone crossed window arch overlooking a lush grassy valley, where naked witches circled in a Sabbat Dance, skinshifting into animal forms and back again. It is neither night nor day. Austin Spare is there beside me, having appeared suddenly to my left, smiling. He wears a velvet jacket and cravat, his hair wild and curly, as he did at around my own age, when alive. He wouldn’t have been out of place on a Saturday night at The Three Cups, or playing guitar in our local goth band. He tells me secret things known only by those neither living or dead.
A fever dream. I had passed into unconsciousness from the pain. I’m not stupid or crazy. I’m not making an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof. Not yet.
I returned to consciousness in hospital, post-operation. The dream had been so very real it confused me that I had gone from talking with Austin Spare to this strange and frightening place. I was in a ward where people were dying. I learned that a surgeon had cut me open, hurriedly pulled out my intestines, removing my appendix just seconds before it exploded. If my insides hadn’t been in a pile next to my unconscious almost flatlining body I would have died a truly horrible death. I wasn’t out of trouble yet, and had attained an infection, causing a different agony that kept me awake, crying to the nurses for stronger painkillers.
All my friends came to visit, and my arch-goth girlfriends pulled round the blinds. Perhaps it was my joy at seeing them all again that helped me recover in record time – so quickly it raised the doctor’s eyebrows.
By the time I left the hospital, I had been in the same room as three men had passed to.. wherever it is they were off to.
It is undeniable that Austin Osman Spare has a huge influence on modern occultism, having been made posthumously ‘famous’ in this context through the works of Kenneth Grant. Ironically, Spare held nothing but disdain for such pretentious and pompous ‘society’ when he was alive. You would not find him hanging out with Crowley, or even Gerald Gardner. As he wrote in The Book of Pleasure: The Psychology of Ecstasy;
“[Some] praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolising we become the symbolized? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels. Magic is but one’s natural ability to attract without asking; ceremony what is unaffected, its doctrine the negation of theirs. I know them well and their creed of learning that teaches the fear of their own light. Vampires, they are the very lice in attraction. Their practices prove their incapacity, they have no magic to intensify the normal, the joy of a child or healthy person, none to evoke their pleasure or wisdom from themselves. Their methods depending on a morass of the imagination and a chaos of conditions, their knowledge obtained with less decency than the hyena his food.”
Which was Spare’s way of saying he thought were are all a bit pretentious. Having explored the world of ‘ceremonial magicians’, and having fallen out with nearly all the biggest poseurs for all the right reasons, I am inclined to agree with him. Nevertheless, Austin’s friend Kenneth Grant seems to have been a jolly good chap. I reproduce some of the good things he had to say about me in The Neuronomicon.
Nor, as a ghost, is Spare impressed by the ever recycled fad of Chaos Magic, or fools as Peter J. Carroll, who dared claim heritage of the Zos Kia Cultus. In his Austin’s words, “Don’t blame me for this crap. They’re all cursed. Every single fucking one of the dirty lying cunts.”
That’s not a quote from one of his books. I heard him say it.
I have met the ghost of Austin Osman Spare a few times. I know how that sounds. Everyone has their opinion on the existence or non existence of ghosts, and there are enough of us that believe in them that you cannot call us all crazy. We all have our own experiences. Nobody can prove whether ghosts exist or not in absolute terms, but I have had several persuasive experiences that, at least at the time, convinced me they do. But I am not making any claims as to their absolute reality.
Spare would say it was our belief in them that made them real. His definition of real might not be the same as a closed minded materialist, and nor is mine. My experiences of meeting the ghost of Austin have been amongst the most persuasive, often coinciding with significant turning points in my life.
I have also known others with similar experiences of meeting the ghost of Austin Osman Spare, along with someone who seems to appear in several of his drawings. It has always been out of kindness on the part of his ghost that he appeared to us, because we needed to know we were not alone. Because we were struggling, like he did as an artist with integrity, refusing to bow to any ‘scene’ and selling his art in local pubs. It is never because he has been ‘summoned’ or has lowered himself to appear at a seance – everyone who has met his ghost, or experienced meeting his ghost, agrees on his contempt for ceremonial magicians and spiritualists. I know there are plenty of people who claim otherwise, but as Spare put it, “Their formula is deception and they are deceived.”
That is not a quote from his books either.
We get along well, Spare and I. We have a lot in common. We are both witches, originating from East Anglian tradition, what have walked what he calls “The Path Direct”. That sounds pretentious, and he is, because what he means is simply “straying from the beaten track”. Going your own way. So we are both connected to the same tradition. And we are both uncompromising magical artists, although I make no claim to be his equal as a draughtsman. The last time I laid eyes on an original Spare was at an exhibition of works by Aubrey Beardsley – which as a ‘footnote’ also included a portrait of Beardley’s wife, which Beardsley himself had commissioned from Austin Osman Spare. We both, his ghost and I, agree that he is unequalled. But I have also experienced his displeasure and even his anger. I am glad I have never pissed him off enough to get cursed, although its fair to say he has knocked me for six a couple of times. You really don’t want to meet the ghost of Austin Osman Spare when he shifts into his atavisms.
The ‘spirit box’ is a method of spirit communication common to the African mysteries, most commonly called an Atua, the name by which it is known in the hoodoo of Louisiana. The hoodoo Atua tradition is said to have originated because white men would not permit ancestor worship so more secretive methods had to be found. More overt forms of the same magick can be found throughout the AfroAsian diaspora, just as they can in what remains of European spiritism; I have come across the same method in the notes of a cunning man who referred to it as a Wizard’s Box. In essence the spirit box holds much in common with the ‘Worry Dolls’ of Dutch tradition, although the spiritism of this simple child’s toy – a box of dolls kept beside the bed you tell you worries to before going to sleep – are perhaps forgotten.
The hoodoo Atua is, in essence, a box containing offerings to a specific ancestor, who is ritually called upon and invited to enter into and ‘dwell’ within the box. An Atua to contact your dead Grandmother, for example, might contain her photograph, the perfume she used to wear, items she was fond of, and perhaps thoughtful gifts such as her favourite chocolate walnut whips. Candles are burned on the box’s lid during like a miniature altar, and it is kept under the bed to facilitate ‘dream incubation’. Letters to the spirit world can be left in the box and left there overnight.
A spirit box might contain gifts to the Invisibles, or their Shadows, just as any altar or fetishé might ‘seat’ the spirits. I made the above example for The Master at the Crossroads to look like a grimoire of black magick, then filled it with the appropriate ingredients, similarly to when an initiate of Voudon seals a ‘part’ of Legba in the cowrie eyed concrete heads often sold in botanicas. The crossed trident symbol on its ‘cover’ is known in Macumba and Makaya – two branches on the left side of the Voudon family tree – as a symbol of Exu-Elegbara, and is also known in the old Germanic magick – still practised in some parts of northern Europe – as a symbol of Odin; two faces of the ‘red ray’ of the archetypes, the trickster/initiator at the crossroads, and in both cases also identified after ‘conversion’ with Satan, the Lord of the Underworld; a masque he is said to still wear simply because he finds in funny. It seems an appropriate symbol to apply my own sorcery; a commonality between my own almost eradicated ancestral tradition and the still nourished spiritism of Africa, and so like much of the ‘mash-up culture’ here in Bristol, a city built on the slave trade. Spells and petite pacts, signed with blood, are placed inside the box until fulfilled on both sides.
THE BODY-BAG is brought into the mortuary and the corpse of William Burroughs placed on the slab beneath glaring strip lights. The room is decrepit and less than sterile. The tiled walls are cracked and there is the stinging aroma of toxic chemicals and human decay. The air conditioning is no equal to the sweltering Interzone weather and every surface is crawling with fat blue flies.
Voices are muffled, not so much out of respect for the dead author’s work as from a strange dread. The mortuary is like one vast memento mori and what is about to happen to William Burroughs reminds us all that the body is a temple. Like any temple it can be looted, its precious treasures scattered, its secrets and mysteries exposed.
Dr. Benway enters the room wearing surgical gloves, a white pathologist’s gown and the ceremonial mask of Anubis. He addresses the paying audience.
“Ladies, gentlemen, critics.”
It is an indication that he is about to begin.
A microphone hangs within a few feet of the slab. Benway turns to the technician.
“Is this thing on, Kiki?”
Kiki gives a grinning thumbs up. He is a gleeful boy with copper bright red hair, familiar enough with Dr. Benway to have prepared everything for the arrival of the deceased.
Photographers snap away, recording for posterity each stage of the process. Having stripped the corpse naked Benway points to a few areas meriting particular close-ups.
“Bruises consistent with heroin use, veins collapsed. No surprises there. Our subject was a self confessed addict and boy lover, not just a homosexual – take note – but a paedophile with a taste for Arab boys as young as 9 or 10. His one attempt at a heteronormative relationship ended with him shooting his wife in the head. All this suggests his addiction may have masked deep self loathing and was perhaps an attempt to control, if not completely deaden, his socially unacceptable sexual desires and attendant guilt.”
Benway removes a small sheet concealing what little remains of Burrough’s modesty. The penis has all but rotted away whilst his inflated testicles stretch their purple and black sack as tight and as large as party balloons.
Gasps from the audience. Someone throws up into their sick-bag, provided at the door upon entry.
“His balls weren’t that big when he was alive, in case you were wondering. That’s what we call dropsie, decaying fluids pooling beneath the skin. You see here where he’s been going into the groin, turning the whole area black. Onset of gangrene. Had probably been impotent for decades but that doesn’t mean he was wasn’t sexually active. Or passive, for that matter. I’m now rolling over the body.”
William Burrough’s lifeless buttocks hang like dirty grey dishcloths, their cold blue tinged skin striped with taut white scars.
“Clear signs of flagellation, possibly self administered. We shall now examine the anus.”
Benway parts the cheeks to reveal an orifice big enough to put your foot in, if it is a large foot and you really want to put it there. Just as you think his descriptive monologue could not get any worse, it does. You try to concentrate on what he is saying but it is not easy. Something about friction wounds, relentless dispassionate penetration and reverse engineered alien technology.
Someone in the audience faints.
Dr. Benway produces a crumpled Camel cigarette. He pokes it through the mouth hole of his mask and lights it with an army issue zipper
Measurements, a physical description – six feet one inch tall, grey hair, face like a turtle, that kind of thing. Fingernail scrapings and clippings are disposed of in polythene bags. The body is washed from head to foot in a concoction with a heady smell like spiced wine, after which Dr. Benway gives the body another cursory examination. Finding nothing new he gets down to the serious business we all bought tickets for.
A deep incision is made down the front of the torso. Ash from Benway’s cigarette topples into the gaping wound. Blood samples are taken and handed to Seth, who places them neatly beside a row of empty glass jars. More samples are taken; urine, faeces, stomach contents, liver, body hair (including eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic) and tissue.
Benway makes an aside to the audience.
“What we can see, the external evidence, is often not as important as what we can’t see. The tiny secrets revealed only by a microscope or chemical test.”
The process is long, drawn out. There is impatient muttering among the audience.
“Not boring you, am I?”
He reaches his hands into the corpse’s chest and forces open the ribs with an audible crack.
You close your eyes but the room swirls all the same. It is not so much the sight of the examination as the accompanying sounds. Tearing of flesh, like a butcher yanking meat from a flank. Bubbling liquids. The soft rasping of the cutting tools. Not just the sounds but the smell, too. The unmistakable aroma of raw meat, clinging to the nostrils, filling the lungs, catching at the back of the throat and clinging there, the tang in the mouth you can actually taste.
The abdominal organs – stomach, liver, intestines – are all removed and taken to a clean slab. Kiki washes them down with more spiced wine before transporting them to their waiting jars. As he washes down the cadaver’s hollowed out insides Dr. Benway presents the subject’s heart to the audience, waving it aloft in one hand whilst prodding it with the tip of his scalpel. It is around the size of a clenched fist, tubes flapping like pieces of rubber.
“The average human heart weighs in at around 11ozs, although of course it may feel subjectively heavier or lighter depending on our emotions. We see here significant hardening of external tissues, whilst these valves here, dealing with the flow of empathy and love for other human beings, have completely sealed over. Burroughs himself insisted that nobody ever loved him during his life apart from his cats.”
Benway returns the heart to its original place within the hollowed out cavity of Burrough’s chest.
Electric buzzing and the scraping of metal against bone as Benway’s circular saw cuts around Burrough’s skull. The job is soon done, but not before several more of the audience have fainted.
He takes hold of the top of the head with both hands and pulls. The whole room holds its breath.
There is a sickening shclupping sound.
The cranium in Benway’s hands looks like a bad toupee of thin grey hair. He places it upside down on the slab and stubs out his Camel in the empty bone bowl. He next turns his attention to the open head, digging his fingers into either side. There is a faint popping as he removes the brain. He holds it triumphantly aloft before the audience. It looks like a giant walnut made of grey and white jelly.
“Ladies, gentlemen. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. William Burrough’s soft machine.”
Gasps, vomiting, more fainting.
“Same size overall as any normal brain, weighing in at around 3lbs, despite having been pickled with every drug known to mankind. The hippocampus here at the back is shrivelled to almost nothing. It is often enlarged in sexual deviants but he put a lot of stress on himself, mentally and physically. The hippocampus also plays a role in immune system function. When its efficiency is compromised, so too is the immune system.”
He flips the brain into the air, spinning it like a basketball before catching it again.
“Also significant reduction in this area of the frontal cortex dealing with ethics, responsibility and conscience. Proportional increase in these right brain areas dealing with creativity, imagination and hustling. We can also see a huge capacity for delusion and self deceit. Again, no surprise considering his obsessions with magick and his well documented involvement with kooky secret societies like the Illuminates of Thanateros.”
Seth proffers a large lidless jar of clear fluid. Benway dumps the brain with asplosh.
The cranium is returned to its rightful place and the whole body covered with natron salt. After that it is stuffed with linen, giving it a fuller look, and wrapped in bandages.
Dr. Benway concludes with a sonorous recitation from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Something about the scales of Maat, whatever that is, and the weighing of hearts against a feather. It is long, boring and ludicrously pretentious. Everyone is glad when it is over.
The room is left in silent introspection. Each of us present is made of the same stuff as William Burroughs and now we stand, momentarily stripped of our individual personalities. We are all bodies, animals, collections of viscera. The only real difference between any of us and Burroughs is that our hearts still pump blood. But one day soon all of our hearts will have stopped and that will be the end of it, save for a visit to the mortuary and, if our hearts are not too heavy, our journey to the Western Lands.
Excerpt from my fictional work, KHAOS AT TRINITY ROAD, published under the pen name of Nathan Mortlock.
We are sad to say that Mick Norris, whose illustrations for Liber Null & Psychonaut went a long way towards ensuring that book’s success, died on the 10th May. His funeral was yesterday.
Mick was a good man, wiling to stand up against the bullshit that had taken over Chaos magic, and the disgusting attitude of the author of the very book his pictures are famous for. He was also a founding member of ICΘN; his name appearing in the start of my own work The Neuronomicon, singing its praises.
He will be sadly missed.
Last year, in an attempt to reclaim my history through a veil of trauma, I began writing what turned into an autobiography. Initially, this was purely for my own healing, but I posted some excerpts on FaceBook; the reactions I received were so extreme I decided to keep my work private until it was completed. The book is now undergoing its 3rd draft, and several people have emailed me asking when it will be published, so I plan to make it available later this year.
The following excerpt is from Chapter 14 (each chapter is numbered after the age I was). Some background – my mother was still married to Greg Cox, the father of my three half-brothers (Jasper, Silas, and Zachary), and a founder of The Ecology Party (now called ‘the Green Party’). We were living in Peldon village, Essex. This chapter tells not just of the abuses my mother and I suffered (I have attempted to write with humour, rather than compile a ‘misery memoir’) but also my embracing of anarchism / punk, and how I took up the practice of magick – who my first teachers were, and my first ‘results’.
Silas was born sometime in 1984. I cannot remember exactly what month it was. He looked like a miniature Greg, but with curly blonde hair. I now had two half brothers, which might have added up to one full brother, but did not. I had little to do with the house dwellers by then and felt an outsider to this new family.
Now there was the baby there was need of extra money. Greg decided to rent out the caravan. For a while, at least, I was allowed to move back into the house. Although I had heard my parents arguing from the end of the garden I did not realise until this time how far things had escalated.
One day, when Owain had come to visit and had been staying with me in the attic, Greg kicked off. He began by taking a sledge-hammer to some kitchen units gifted to us by Uncle Dennis and Aunty Alice, which for some reason were still in the back garden where they had been since being delivered. Then there was screaming from downstairs in the kitchen. Owain stayed put, his face turning sickly grey. The screaming stopped and the back door slammed. I heard Greg get in the car and drive away, then went downstairs. As I walked past Jasper’s room I saw him huddled up under his blankets, trying to block it all out.
In the kitchen, Silas was still in his high chair, crying. Mum lay on the kitchen floor, surounded by shards of broken crockery, blood pouring from her head. Greg had hit her with a plate.
I think the neighbours must have taken her to hospital. It is hard for me to remember. What I do know is that she needed six stitches.
A little while later the new lodger moved into the caravan. I think the lodger’s name might have been Mark, but I am not sure. He was a Christian, having converted after his split from a hereditary witchcraft coven. The priesthood had been passed to his older brother, Tony Skinner, who had allegedly attempted to murder him with an athame (ritual dagger) for betraying his Oath. He feared for his life and the fact he was staying with us was a secret. Mum did his shopping so nobody would see him.
I had seen Tony Skinner swanning round Colchester with his long red hair and coven of young ladies, their flapping cloaks giving glimpses of stocking tops and thigh high leather boots. His priestess, Mandy, was the lead singer in the rock band Cat Genetica, while Tony was the guitarist. Wild rumours were spreading about sex magic orgies, all lipstick lesbians apart from their Magister. There were also rumours about the blood sacrifices, which did not sound as attractive, but he definitely had something working for him and it looked a lot more fun than Christianity. I kept my opinions to myself and did not ask too many questions.
Mark mostly kept to himself, out of sight, as is sensible when a black magic cult is hunting you. It was not long before he found a Christian flower-child girlfriend and was gone. I hardly even spoke to him.
* * *
There was a report in the newspaper about how they had brought in a curfew in Paris that only applied to punks, making it law that they were not allowed out in the streets after 10.00pm. A small gang had been stopped by the police, roughed up a bit and searched. A girl punk among them had had a pet rat, which had bitten an officer and turned out to have rabies.
Reading this at the breakfast table I asked my parents, “Can I have a pet rat, please?”
“Absolutely not. They’re filthy creatures,” said Greg.
I was crestfallen.
When he was not around Mum said, “Maybe you could keep a pet rat, so long as it was a secret from Greg. We could put the cage in the bottom of your wardrobe and he’d never know.”
She even gave me some money to buy the cage and the rat with.
I called her Lucrezia. She was white, with brown and black spots. She seemed quite happy hidden in the bottom of my wardrobe, and chewed the hem of my Crombie all along the bottom. When I went to Colchester she came with me, hidden in my inside pocket, which I lined with tissue paper. When she wanted to come out she crawled down my sleeve, nudging me with her nose. I would hold open my hand and she would suddenly appear, as if by a conjuring trick. If I went to visit people she would run around freely, then come back when I called her and climb back in my pocket. Rats are as smart as dogs, by my reckoning, or at least Lucrezia was. She was my constant companion for much of the early summer.
I was at school when Greg found the cage and threw it down the stairs. Mum said he squealed like a girl, and seemed quite smug about it. Nevertheless, I was told I had to get rid of her. I was devastated.
Owain said I could bring the cage round to his, and he would look after her. That way I could still have my rat at weekends. Sadly, however, she got out of her cage while he was at school. She tempted hamsters to the bars of their cages by dropping bits of food, then killed them and ate whatever she could reach. When he got home there was carnage, half eaten hamsters with their guts torn out all over the place. He caught Lucrezia and punished her by not giving her any more food. By the time I saw him again she was dead, and we had a major falling out.
Teenagers can be very dramatic, and I had a lot on my plate besides a dead rat. I had also drunk a whole bottle of Merrydown to myself. Nevertheless, Owain and Simon were confounded – hard core punks are not supposed to burst into tears. They are especially not supposed to take themselves to an overpass and attempt to throw themselves into passing traffic. Simon dragged me forcibly off the railings and sat on me until I calmed down and promised I was not going to commit suicide over a pet rat.
* * *
Shortly before Mark (the Christian in the caravan) left I was displaced into the shed sorry studio at the end of our quarter acre garden, which was vacated for my accommodation. I had to make my own bed; nailing short planks of wood across a door-less old wardrobe, laid on its back. This provided support for the mattress with storage space beneath. I was not the best carpenter and every now and then a slat would break, the mattress tipping into the cupboard at one end or the other, but it was comfortable most of the time.
The shed sorry studio was annexed on one side with the greenhouse, which meant free weed, so long as I was not too greedy and Greg did not notice. The opposite wall was immediately next to the fencing for Mr. & Mrs. Balls’s chickens and what had been sold to them as an ornamental goat, which I suspected was some kind of shoat or geep, if such cross-breeding is possible. It was black, with sharp little horns, and bounced on its stumpy hind-legs like springs, rearing up to pin you with its yellow slitted eyes before nutting you like a Barmy Army skinhead from Glasgow. Sunrise was accompanied by the crowing cockerel and the possessed geep head-butting the fence.
A friend of Mum’s was, or had been, going out with a drummer from the punk band C.R.A.S.S., or something. Apparently they lived not far from Colchester on a communal farm, but they were never seen around the graveyard or by any of us in town. A selection from their catalogue was passed on to me; ‘Penis Envy’, the ‘Big A Little A’ single, the infamous ‘Person’s Unknown’, with the album ‘Hex’ by Poison Girls having a noticeably witchy theme. Strangely, Mum did not appreciate the music when I played it to her, showing her the lyrics on the album cover for the anarcho-femisist classic ‘Jump Mother Jump’.
“Why would I want to listen to something like that?” she said.
I suppose the lyrics were a bit too close to home for her.
Rarely mentioned in modern histories of punk music. most of which try to write the movement off as a flash in the pan, is the political divide that was happening at street level. They did not call it ‘The Punk Wars’ for nothing. Not that Greg could tell the difference, accusing all punks of being fascists and me along with them; which was pretty rich considering his fantasies of ‘Green Shirts’ forcibly installing composter toilets and raising Greg as the UK’s ecologically sound dictator. I did suggest he tried at least reading some of the lyrics on the record covers, printed in concession to the vocals being completely incomprehensible, which might have been why Greg found it hard to distinguish between the movements, but as usual there was no arguing with him. All this seems particularly ironic when you consider that his friend Cat, who stayed on his land in France, was the manager of the punk band Special Duties, who made the alternative charts in N.M.E. and Melody Maker with their single ‘Colchester Council Full of Shit’. Their singer called himself Steve Arrogant, in parody of Steve Ignorant, the singer of C.R.A.S.S., which, might be why we never them in town; people were jealous and had a shitty attitude.
I considered myself an anarchist, although inspired more by the individualism of Stirner than the mutualism of Proudhon, the collectivism of Bakunin, or the communism of Kropotkin; I did not like doing what I was told by anyone, be that government or society, but that is teenagers for you. My attraction to anarchism should come as no surprise; its origins, as far back as it can be traced, lie with the Free Spirit movements of the eleventh century, which was largely spread by hedge-priests, heretics, and witches; in an age where church and state were one, politics and spirituality become inseparable at every layer of society. I covered the plaster-board walls of the shed with album covers and fold out poster art of white on black stencil declaring ‘Jesus died for his own sins – not mine.’
The next lodgers to move into the caravan were far more interesting. They too seemed to be hiding, although were nowhere as paranoid as Mark had been. They had recently been banished from Findhorn, a New Age commune in Scotland, allegedly for ‘upsetting the fairies’. Their names were Leroy and Natasha.
I do not know much about Leroy’s background, except that he was a paid up member of Sinn Feinn, despised the I.R.A. (who I at the time had naïve and somewhat misplaced sympathies for) and played acoustic guitar. I thought he was alright for a hippy, even if I could never agree with his opinion that The Doors had any influence on punk (which he may in fact have been right about).
I think perhaps Natasha had known my mother from when they were at school, although I had not met her before. She was the daughter of Sir Donald Swann, the composer of ‘Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud’, from which he gained considerable royalties any time Playschool or some other TV show assumed the song was ‘traditional’. He was also the best friend of Tolkien, for whom he had set to music all the songs from Lord of the Rings. Apparently Donald came to visit, making no effort to conceal his staunchly conservative disapproval of all our lifestyles, although I was not in at the time. Mum described him as, “The kind of person who thinks, if someone has no money, they should get down on their knees and scrub the doorsteps of those who do.”
Leroy and Natasha spent a lot of time socializing with Mum and Greg, smoking copious amounts of weed and sitting round playing records, particularly The Incredible String Band‘s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, the lyrics of which provoked considerable discussion; was the answer to the riddle about the five elements in a basket as obvious as it seemed? Did ‘Just Like John’ imply the band had turned Christian? Were there hidden meanings in ‘If I Were a Witch’s Hat’? (The album grew on me in later years, perhaps out of nostalgia, but at the time I hated it).
Both Mum and Natasha would sing as Leroy played guitar, mostly traditional folk songs about fairies and witches. They both had stunning voices, my mother’s like the ringing of bells and Natasha’s with a slightly husky whisky and cigarettes sexiness.
Mum had written several books of poetry, all in the most intricate cursive script as with a feather. Leroy and Natasha persuaded her to turn some of them into songs. The results, never performed to an audience, were enchanting;
No breath breaks silence, nor dry twig moves,
The stones unstirred by weightless hooves.
The trees bear witness, mute as I,
Grunhild’s host prepares to fly.
They said, “You have not seen them, you could not see them, no,
“These shades the pentagram of man eclipsed so long ago.”
Should I not then have set my foot upon this Old Straight Way?
A greater magic moves this world than Arte of ours can sway..
Each evening as the lodgers prepared to go to bed I heared Natasha sweeping the floor of the caravan with a broom, from the back to the door, then out the door, calling aloud, “Out! Out! And stay out!”
I thought at first she might have been kicking out Rosie dog, who was always on the blag if she thought there might be food. It certainly was not Leroy. Eventually I worked out that it must have been some kind of banishing ritual. Perhaps they had a problem with offended fairies that had followed them from Findhorn. They believed in some pretty nutty stuff.
One evening when I was hanging out with them in the caravan Natasha said to me, “We’ve seen you flying around at night.”
“Astral projection. You have what they call a ‘wild talent’,” said Leroy, passing me a neat weed spliff (on agreement I did not tell my parents).
I coughed, exhaling a cloud of grey and blue smoke. “You what?”
“Do you ever go places, just with your mind?” said Natasha.
“Sure, but nowhere real.”
“What’s real, anyway?” said Leroy.
“I don’t know. A punch in the face always seems pretty real, to me.”
“Not everybody travels like you do,” said Natasha.
I was beginning to catch on, “You mean when I’m meditating?”
“If that’s what you’re doing. Meditating, dissociating, leaving your body, astrally projecting, whatever you want to call it. Like in a dream, but not. I’ve seen you doing it. Flying around.”
“But astral projection? Leaving my body? Isn’t that all about travelling in the real world, finding missing people and spying on military bases? I haven’t been doing anything like that.”
“That’s remote viewing. It’s close what what you do, but not quite. Have you ever tried it?”
“It’s not actually possible, is it?”
“There are secret government projects where they train people to do that kind of thing. They wouldn’t invest all that time and money if they didn’t get results,” said Leroy.
“Where you go is more like a dream, right? Like a fairy world?” said Natasha.
I knew she was not referring to the kind of fairies in Victorian children’s books, but all the same it sounded a bit silly. I had yet to fully understand that the ‘language’ of magic is all about consciousness, and how it is experienced within trance, dream, or other altered states.
“The shaman call it the spirit world. Ceremonial magicians call it the astral dimension,” said Leroy.
“A magic world, with mountains and forests, but also other places,” I admitted. “It’s just imagination though.”
“Then how come we’ve both seen you?” said Natasha.
I was stumped. I had never told anybody about my meditations. I knew it was an eccentricity, since nobody else I knew seemed to do it, but it had never occurred to me that it might be any kind of ‘psychic skill’.
Over the next few weeks we talked about yoga, and I had my first proper meditation lessons, writing down my results in a diary and attempting to prolong periods of mental quiet. I also began a study of magical symbolism and how it is applied. It was explained to me that the elemental forces were like the elements in chemistry but related instead to consciousness. Earth is the body, with all its needs, air is the intellect and the ability to create or understand models and theories, fire is the power of will and the life force moving through all nature, water is the emotions and powers of intuition. They also taught me about the Tattvas of yogic meditation, and how they could be used as doorways into specific astral realms.
We practised a technique where I stood on my head for around three minutes, was lowered slowly with my head still to the floor, rising over half a minute into a kneeling posture. I then focused on the elemental symbol I desired to explore. The Tattvas themselves were presented to me as bold shapes in complimentary colours on a background of black. For example, if I desired to move into the elemental realm of fire, the symbol for which is an upward pointing red triangle, I would be shown a green triangle (cut from a piece of coloured paper) on a black card. At the very centre was a white spot, which I focused upon without allowing my vision to waver. This resulted, through a natural effect of the brain, in the triangle apparently turning black and momentarily disappearing, at which point I would close my eyes and see the ‘ghost image’ left behind; a red triangle requiring no effort to visualize. This image was maintained for as long as possible then ‘moved through’ as an astral doorway. After this came free-form visions inspired by the idea of being in the ‘realm of elemental fire’ and everything this symbolized to me.
Apparently all this would all be a lot safer than just travelling around willy nilly with no idea where I was going. Both Leroy and Natasha insisted there were astral vampires and other spirit entities which, even if I had yet to meet one, were out there waiting for the unwary traveller. They made constant reference to Israel Regardie’s The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magick, which they let me borrow so I could read more of the exercises. I suspect they had also been reading Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Trilogy. They made regular mail-order purchases from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Leeds, and whenever they did so they allowed me to choose something that interested me.
“So long as you don’t tell your parents. Greg gets totally freaked by this kind of thing,” said Leroy, with a wink.
I supplemented my studies with regular visits to Colchester library, where there was a well stocked occult section. It was a shame they did not teach witchcraft at school, or I might have spent more time there. Like many people studying magick in the modern day read whatever I could find by Crowley. Although I had a good chuckle at his poem Leah Sublime, which I had in chapbook form, his works seemed deliberately obtuse and belaboured with gratuitously obscurantist verbiage. It was a long time before I could understand any of it, and even then it was with reservations – he was a vile character and not someone to be admired. (Many years later I learned that Crowley had made efforts to gain initiation into the Essex Craft and had been turned down for being a sex pest, so I congratulate myself on my good taste, even if nobody else does.)
I was much more interested in runes, and the relationship between ancient magick and modern writing. There remains a strong resemblance between the runes and the letters spelling these words as I rite for you to rede. Books of spells were called ‘grammars’, from where we get the word ‘grimoire’.
I was soon expanding my knowledge of the grimoires, particularly The Goetia, which I already had passing familiarity with through it being referenced in DragonQuest. In 1986 it was much harder to get your hands on original manuscripts, as there was no internet, so I had to make do with books by people who could, such as Richard Cavendish’s Black Magic and Idris Shah’s The Secret Lore of Magic. Regarding the tradition of East Anglia, the most influential of is Le Veritable Dragon Rouge, otherwise called The Grand Grimoire, a 17th century text dealing with the making of petite pacts, where daemons are petitioned for smaller favours, and the grande pact, as with the tragedy of Faust. Grimoire are, in my opinion, a much overlooked literary tradition, far more interesting than just ritual instruction or long lists of demons, with many reading more like stories or confessionals. Like any good book, they act like astral doorways, the reader losing all awareness of the here and now as they are hypnotised by the glyphs upon its page, transporting them to another world.
Both Goetia and galðr (the Germanic word for knowledge of runes) are central to the witchcraft of England, especially in East Anglia. There is evidence of their combination with in the 10th Century text, Solomon and Saturn, where a formulae is given for banishing the Roman god of darkness by spelling out the words Pater Nosta in runes. Their relationship is also apparent in the surviving galðrbok (runic grimoires) of Iceland. As Waite says of The Goetia in The Book of Ceremonial Magic, 1911, “Here it is not the Law of Continuity persisting in its formulae despite the Law of Fantasia; it is Croquetemaine explained by Diabolus, the runes of Elf-Land read with the interpretation of Infernus..”
Besides witchcraft, Greg was afraid of spiders. I witnessed him try to sweep a huge Boris out the back door into the garden, but it scuttled up the broomstick towards him. He spun the broom around and around, but the spider kept changing direction, like it totally had it in for him. He squealed like a little girl with blood in her knickers, and threw the broom into the back garden, as far away as he could. I laughed about that for ages, but only when he was not in earshot. He also squealed when a wolf spider leaped on him off the lampshade hanging in the front room and bit him, dropping his towel and running naked out the back door. That one definitely had it in for him. While Greg was arachnophobic, I have always had a fondness for spiders, be they big fat Boris, skinny Daddy Long Legs, or Incy Wincy. and encouraged them to share my shed in large numbers.
In my studies I came across a traditional spell involving spiders, alleged granting the power of invisibility. I knew enough by then not to take such claims literally, assuming the magic was in some psychic element allowing the caster to escape notice by other means than light travelling right through them. Nevertheless it seemed worth a try, since the worst part of my day was coming home in the evenings and sneaking past Greg’s truck – if it was in the drive – without being noticed.
Like most traditional witchcraft it was not a spell that would appeal to bunnies; it required the spiders be eaten whole. I started off with money spiders and worked up to the thriving community of big fat Boris building webs in the shed roof. Strangely it did seem to have an effect; it got so my parents did not notice my comings and goings, or even if I was in at all.
Whether it was anything to do with the curses I put on him, I do not know, but Greg had a rapid onset of early baldness. He lost all the hair on the top of his head, while what remained stuck out wildly to either side like a bad clown wig. He made a green mushy patē, the main ingredients of which were marijuana and vodka, then spread it all over his bald patch. He walked around like that, naked and hairy but for a pair of home made wooden clogs that made his feet look twice their real size, and his baldness smothered in this green mush that looked like a giant pigeon had shat on his head, singing “Oopie Doopie Doopie Doo” to himself.
I do not know if it was supposed to be magic or science, or both, but the patē had no effect whatsoever. This might be because I had plundered the vodka and topped it up with water; nobody else in the house drank, except for Rosie, and as far as I was concerned it was going to waste.
Although it became impossible to take Greg seriously he was no less terrifying. I had nightmares about being taken down to Hell to converse on matters of the soul with none other than Lucifer. His appearance, as well as that of the hierarchy surrounding him, were as depicted in Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal (1863); huge comic noses, oversized feet, like surreal caricatures. It was almost impossible not to laugh at them, but for the consequences being so serious. It was just the same trying not to snigger at Greg. I would soon discover I was not alone in finding him laughable.
One day, when I was in Colchester, I wandered into Phaédre, a hippy café that had opened on a cobbled street leading to the Castle Park. They sold second had records and books, although I did not find anything on the shelves that interested me. Also on sale was a local publication, a kind of intellectual fanzine, called The Corpus of English Conversation. It ran a comic strip about a wife beating hippy hypocrite with crazy hair sticking out around a shiny bald patch called ‘Mr. Oopie Doo’.
I do not know quite how Greg managed to convince himself it was ‘coincidence’, and that Colchester’s alternative scene were not laughing at him behind his back, but he did. Denial, as they say, is more than just a river in Egypt.