The Art of the Occult

occult1.jpg

Cover art: Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (1915) by Hilma af Klint. Design by Paileen Currie.

A surprise arrival in today’s post, the occult art compendium by S. Elizabeth which I would have wanted to read even if it didn’t contain one of my pictures:

From theosophy and kabbalah, to the zodiac and alchemy; spiritualism and ceremonial magic, to the elements and sacred geometry – The Art of the Occult introduces major occult themes and showcases the artists who have been influenced and led by them. Discover the symbolic and mythical images of the Pre-Raphaelites; the automatic drawing of Hilma af Klint and Madge Gill; Leonora Carrington’s surrealist interpretation of myth, alchemy and kabbalah; and much more.

Most of the books I’ve seen on this subject have either been very general and in need of an update (Thames and Hudson’s venerable Magic: The Western Tradition) or exhibition catalogues which are never comprehensive and become increasingly hard to find since they don’t get reprinted. The Art of the Occult is an ideal introduction to the subject for the curious reader, as well as being a useful overview for the aficionado (or initiate) which spans several hundred years of art and illustration, from the earliest occult manuscripts to contemporary works. Occult art is a house with many mansions, a form which can encompass photo-realism, Symbolism, Surrealism or total abstraction without the definition breaking down. The Art of the Occult contains a satisfyingly wide range of examples, 200 in all, and includes many artists whose work I hadn’t seen before. It also reinforces the origin of abstract art in occult concerns, a lineage that went unmentioned for many years by critics who couldn’t accept that their beloved “pure” idiom was tainted by mysticism.

occult2.jpg

My piece is a portrait of the serpent-haired Abyzou, one of the Solomonic demons I depicted for The Demons of King Solomon in 2017. The picture was one of the better representations in a series I would have preferred to have more time to work on. I was pleased to see my contribution facing one of Elijah Burgher’s sigil drawings; I like Burgher’s art so he makes a good companion. This is the first and maybe the only book where my name is listed in an index between Pamela Colman Smith and Aleister Crowley.

The Art of the Occult will be published by White Lion Publishing on 13th of October, just in time for the annual spook-fest.

Update: Haute Macabre has a new post by S. Elizabeth showing more pages from the book’s interior plus the opportunity to win a copy.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Calendrier Magique
The Demons of King Solomon
Typefaces of the occult revival
The art of Frieda Harris, 1877–1962
The art of Fay Pomerance, 1912–2001
Songs for the Witch Woman
Wilfried Sätty: Artist of the occult
The art of Scott Treleaven

The Egyptian Tarot

tarot01.jpg

I: The Magus

While looking at Tarot designs for work purposes (again) I remembered a book I used to own that demonstrated the symbolism of the Major Arcana by using side-by-side comparisons of cards from the more well-known decks: the Tarot de Marseille, Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith cards, and so on. One of the decks shown wasn’t so familiar, a 19th-century design that purported to depict the Ancient Egyptian figures from which the modern Tarot is derived. Like much occult history, this is an invention but I liked the look of the cards with their simple line drawings and clever matching of Egyptian motifs with the traditional symbols. My book was borrowed years ago and never returned (the second Tarot book I’ve had this happen to; don’t lend people your Tarot books!), so I couldn’t look for a reference, but this account of the history of the so-called Egyptian Tarot supplies all the relevant details and more.

tarot02.jpg

II: The Gate of the Sanctuary

The examples shown here are from Practical Astrology (1901), a book by Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont writing under the preposterous pseudonym “Comte C. de Saint Germain” (a real person, albeit dead by 1901, with a long history of appropriation by writers and charlatans). The drawings are reworkings of the first appearance of the Egyptian designs in an earlier book, Les XXII Lames Hermètiques du Tarot Divinatoire (1896) by R. Falconnier, the drawings there being the work of one M.O. Wegener. In addition to copying the designs Valcourt-Vermont filled out the set with a Minor Arcana of his own devising that looks distinctly amateurish next to the Wegener set. Since then the cards have continued to evolve, a more recent version being the Ibis Tarot which colours the drawings in a manner that doesn’t really suit this type of art. The cards shown in my errant book were memorable in part because they stood out from their vividly-coloured counterparts.

tarot03.jpg

III: Isis-Urania

It’s good to see these again, and also surprising to discover a further detail, that the Wegener drawings had been based on descriptions by Paul Christian in another occult study, Histoire de la Magie (1870). Christian’s book was the subject of a previous post for also being the source of an illustration of a witches’ sabbat that turns up all over the place, usually without credit. Not for the first time, the occult world is smaller than it seems.

tarot04.jpg

IV: The Cubic Stone

Wikipedia has copies of the drawings from the Falconnier book which may also be seen at Gallica, although the copy I found there was incomplete. The Valcourt-Vermont designs were published as a complete deck, The Egyptian Tarot, by Müller in 1978.

tarot05.jpg

V: Master of the Arcanes

Continue reading “The Egyptian Tarot”

Weekend links 490

stoer.jpg

An engraving from The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567).

• Curtis Harrington’s cult horror film, Night Tide (1961), receives a lavish blu-ray reissue from Powerhouse in January. The limited edition will include an extra disc of Harrington’s early short films which encompass Poe adaptations and also Wormwood Star, his portrait of occult artist (and actor in Night Tide) Marjorie Cameron.

• “He was the first American representative of an electronic sound that was largely coming from Europe, from bands like Kraftwerk, or producers like Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte…” Jude Rogers on Patrick Cowley.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins examines Hans Poelzig’s and Marlene Moeschke’s work on Paul Wegener’s 1920 film of The Golem. Wegener’s film is released this month in a restored blu-ray edition by Eureka.

• “Conrad was uncompromising in his beliefs until the end, sticking to his ideals with tenacious fervor.” Geeta Dayal on Tony Conrad: Writings, edited by Constance DeJong and
Andrew Lampert.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 47 dead films. One of the films, Hu-Man (1975), a French science-fiction drama starring Terence Stamp, isn’t as dead as was assumed.

• The Danske Filminstitut has made a collection of Danish silent films available to watch for free online.

• The Last Time I Saw John Giorno, an Extraordinary Performance Poet by Mark Dery.

• “Like looking through butterfly wings”: Ira Cohen’s Mylar chamber—in pictures.

Callum James reviews the Early Poetical Works of Aleister Crowley.

• Drawing the Gaze: Revisiting Don’t Look Now by Jesse Miksic.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 745 by Visible Cloaks.

Mind Warp (1982) by Patrick Cowley | Go-Go Golem (1986) by Golem Orchestra | Night Tide (1995) by Scorn

Weekend links 453

mccarthy.jpg

The Moon photographed by Andrew McCarthy.

• Top twenties of the week: Anne Billson on 20 of the best (recent) Japanese horror films, and Britt Brown‘s suggestions for 20 of the best New Age albums. (I’d recommend Journey To The Edge Of The Universe as the best from Upper Astral.) Related to the latter: Jack Needham on lullabies for air conditioners: the corporate bliss of Japanese ambient.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis talks with writer and ultraculture wizard Jason Louv about occult history, reality tunnels, his John Dee and the Empire of Angels book, Aleister Crowley’s secret Christianity, and the apocalyptic RPG the West can’t seem to escape.

• “It’s like someone looked at the vinyl revival and said: what this needs is lower sound quality and even less convenience.” Cassette tapes are back…again. But is anyone playing them?

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 280 by O Yuki Conjugate, Bleep Mix #53 by Pye Corner Audio, and 1980 by The Ephemeral Man.

• The fifth edition of Wyrd Daze—”The multimedia zine of speculative fiction + extra-ordinary music, art & writing”—is out now.

Midian Books has a new website for its stock of occult publications and related esoterica.

Mark Sinker on three decades of cross-cultural Utopianism in British music writing.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Nastassja Kinski Day.

Utopia No. 1 (1973) by Utopia | Utopia (2000) by Goldfrapp | Utopian Facade (2016) by John Carpenter

Blood And Rockets by The Claypool Lennon Delirium

blood1.jpg

In an overburdened media landscape the words “Terry Gilliam-like animation” could easily mean some hastily-compiled film with a few nods to the collage style that Gilliam popularised in his interludes for the Monty Python TV series. Rich Ragsdale’s music video for The Claypool Lennon Delirium (Les Claypool and Sean Lennon) is much more than this, being a witty and inventive pastiche of the complete Gilliam style, replete with an abundance of sight gags, and familiar touches such as fizzing bombs, clutching hands and chattering heads.

blood2.jpg

The subject of the song is Jack Parsons, the ill-fated Californian rocket engineer whose wild life and entanglement with the West Coast chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis led to scandal and an untimely death. Parsons’ story is one of the more curious episodes in 20th-century occultism—a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard was also involved in the Crowley shenanigans—but this must be the first time the history has been recounted in the form of a psychedelic ballad. Ragsdale is no slouch with the occult symbolism either, adding a number of Thelemic touches to the inevitable Satanic iconography. As befits the sex-obsessed Parsons the video also contains a fair amount of phallic imagery and boob constellations that somehow evaded the attentions of the YouTube Penis Police. Watch it here. (Thanks to Erik Davis!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste revisited
Occult gestures
Konx om Pax
Aleister Crowley: Wandering The Waste
Brush of Baphomet by Kenneth Anger
Rex Ingram’s The Magician
The Mysteries of Myra
Gilliam’s shaver and Bovril by electrocution
Aleister Crowley on vinyl