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Spectrum image by Dawn Hudson

An earlier version of this essay was initially published in the I:MAGE Exhibition Catalogue. Robert Ansell and Livia Filotico, eds. Somerset: Fulgur Ltd. 2014

Regardless of how one approaches metaphysical and scientific concepts of color through the centuries, one thing is certain: color is a mighty slippery subject. Over time, scores of scientists, artists and thinkers have labored to understand the nature of various colors and importantly, how to use and predict their effects, because color produces powerful and profound impacts on the body, emotion and spirit. …


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© Guy Carrard — Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP
© Man Ray Trust / Adagp, Paris

Ithell Colquhoun’s reputation as a Surrealist artist, writer and occultist has been surging in recent years. Most know her through her quirky travelogues of Ireland and Cornwall Crying of the Wind: Ireland(1955) and The Living Stones: Cornwall (1957), her Surrealist occult novel Goose of Hermogenes (1961), or perhaps her idiosyncratic account of the history of the Golden Dawn, The Sword of Wisdom (1975). Her visual art has been less accessible until recently, but is becoming more widely known with recent, beautifully illustrated publications featuring her Taro (tarot) deck and her color study of the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, The Decad of Intelligence. Her genius is evident, yet so much about this brilliant and eccentric figure remains elusive. As I eagerly await the publication of my own biography of Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (coming soon from Strange Attractor Press), I thought I might delight you all with a topic I don’t address in the book in any great depth: Colquhoun seemed to have a weird thing about exploring base bodily functions with some delight. …


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Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Several months ago, I was approached by a journalist who wanted to discuss with me his hypothesis, a rather popular one if this year’s press is any indication, that the current widespread interest in the occult is the result of people adapting to these troubled times. He was not at all alone in this assertion, which has produced a number of news pieces rehearsing the same general theme: Young people are turning to magic and other esoteric pursuits as a way of coping with the chaos of the world around them, attempting to create meaning in a deeply unstable world. I expect the journalist was quite disappointed and maybe a bit surprised when I flatly disagreed with him. Yes, our current world is a very strange place, but the occult has always been here. …


Lodge 49 is probably the most accurate portrayal of the occult on television.

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A section from the English illustration known as the Ripley Scroll, based on a15th century original.

The Lodge 49 season two finale has come and gone, and it was breathtaking. This show, about the members of an esoteric fraternal order in Long Beach, California, has such a sedate and otherworldly quality while still managing to be utterly real and relatable. Rarely in my admittedly unconventional life have I felt as though a show has spoken so directly to me, peering deep into my weird little soul and stoking the fires of my personal alembic.

Lodge 49 wins acclaim for its dreamily languid and unfolding plot and compelling characters, yet we never hear of it described as an occult themed show, which it most definitely is. This is most likely because of the emphasis of the weird over that of the showy and supernatural, but make no mistake, Lodge 49 captures the magical life beautifully. This is not the occult as wished for, this is the occult as it really is. In fact, I believe it is the most accurate occult show on television. …


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Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

This essay was adapted from a lecture titled Toward Progressive Magicks: Identifying Obstacles, Dismantling Frameworks delivered at the Towards a Progressive Magic evening, at the Horse Hospital in London, May 30, 2019 sponsored by Strange Attractor Press.

Make no mistake, there are reasons why new activists from the radical right are attracted to Paganism and the occult, and it is not only because of the mythic connections between historical Nazis and shadowy secret societies. It’s because there are uncomfortable structural compatibilities between some aspects of Pagan and occult culture and the ideals of some sectors of the radical right. I have been researching, speaking and writing about the relationship between the radical right and Pagan and occult subcultures for probably about a decade, in both academic and other, more accessible venues. A decade ago, this topic still felt a bit like the fringe of the fringe. And it was. Today, however, I am writing from a vastly different viewpoint, where the ideologies and methods of the radical right have been all but mainstreamed, and the intersections with Pagan and occult ideologies cannot be ignored. These days there are far more rallying cries of concern from within these linked subcultures, with people wanting to know the history of the movements in question, or lists of bad actors working to radicalize Pagan or occult groups. When mass shooters have Pagan symbols on their backpacks or refer to occult writers and ideas in their manifestos, people want to know why. The fact is that even given the strong, and often overstated historical relationship with the counterculture and leftist ideas, both Paganism and the occult have elements which have also been embedded in conservative and even radical right ideologies since, well, forever, and the connections extend far beyond the well-known tropes of esoteric Nazism. …


A man pointing his finger and mansplaining.
A man pointing his finger and mansplaining.

It happened again the other day, that same familiar rage combined with numbness while reading the posts in a Facebook group. Once again, in a discussion group devoted to esoteric practice, I saw a woman make a post and very quickly get piled on by men, asserting that she was ignorant of the issue, had an embarrassing lack of expertise, and then provided with detailed expositions demonstrating their own mastery and brilliance. By the time the original poster had any opportunity to try to clarify her original request, the tone had been set, and clearly upset and embarrassed, she left the group. …


On Paganism, Fakelore, and Tired Conversations about Authenticity

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Paul Bunyan and Babe: This was Dorson’s “Fakelore”

I am currently attending the American Academy of Religion conference, which is the largest conference of scholars of religion in the world. I’m a pretty active member of the organization, but primarily I serve as the Co-Chair of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit. Right now there is a lot of conversation among Religious Studies scholars about the staggeringly huge problem of sexual abuse and trauma in religious communities. Scandals are exploding in sects and churches all over the world, and deep and entrenched histories of abuse are being uncovered. Some receive more press than others, but it appears to be a nearly ubiquitous phenomenon. …

About

Amy Hale

Anthropologist and writer specializing in occult cultures and history. Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, Strange Attractor Press.

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