10 Questions with Phil Hine

Today we’re talking with author Phil Hine, who has been an integral part of the occult community for over 45 years. Here we discuss the evolution of magical communities, the time before the internet, and what influences his practice.

1. What first drew you to the study and practice of magic?

I thought the occult was rubbish until I was about 16. One day, I was in the school library, idly glancing through a bound edition of Man, Myth & Magic magazine – looking of pictures of nude witches. I came across a photo of a painting by Austin Osman Spare. I’d been reading Jung – probably Man & His Symbols – and something about the Spare portrait seemed to resonate with that (can’t remember exactly what it was) and that got me interested. I went to the local library and read anything I could get my hands on. There wasn’t a great choice – Theosophy, Spiritualism, Dennis Wheatley. Eventually I got my hands on David Conway’s classic “Magic: An Occult Primer” and everything sort of bobbled along from that point. If you want to know more, there’s some autobiographical essays in Hine’s Varieties.

2. What made chaos magic different from other schools and systems you had learned about?

When I first came across chaos magic in the late 70s it wasn’t really either a school or a system – really more of a bunch of vague ideas that were being largely discussed in ‘zines and amongst small groups of people. There weren’t many books either – three or four at the most, all published by small presses. One of the first things that I came across was a cassette tape of a ritual called “the chaochamber”. I guess you could call it a pathworking of sorts, but instead of the standard astral temple set up, you floated in the aethyr in a kind of steampunk vehicle. I thought this was great – really creative. That’s what attracted me to chaos magic – the permission to pull in ideas and themes from outside what then passed for “traditional” occultism, which was rather conservative to say the least. Just to give you an idea what it was like, I was doing a correspondence course in elementary magical practice (by post – no internet in 1980!) and the tutors told me off for spelling magic with a “k” and for experimenting with sigils.

3. How has your study of Tantra influenced your magical practice?

That’s an interesting question. I first became interested in Tantra in the early 80s, and since the late 90s all I’ve done is tantric practice – mostly a ‘light’ form of Srividya. Not only has that shaped my practice and understanding of magic significantly, but it’s also influenced some of my side interests. For example, a few years ago, I became interested in classical Indian literary and poetic theory. I decided I needed a better understanding of poetic and literary metaphors in order to better understand the tantric literature I was using in my practice such as the dhyanas – the meditative scenes that are a core component of the practice. It also spurred my interest in history, as I wanted to find out where all the misconceptions about tantra being entirely about sex arose – so I started looking into the historical processes that gave rise to those misconceptions. Frequently I find myself zooming off on a new trajectory just by asking simple questions. What are classical Indian ideas of beauty? How did 14th-century tantric teachers think of how the imaginative faculty worked? It’s too easy to approach tantra from the perspective of contemporary ‘western’ assumptions about standards of beauty or the imagination – I wanted to know what they had to say, and often turned up surprises or ideas vastly different to what I was used to.

4. Having been around to witness so much evolution in magical/occult communities and practices, what have been some of the biggest changes?

The internet, without a doubt. The internet has changed everything.

Also, people nowadays seem less likely to put up with the blantant racism, misogyny, and homophobia that’s present in a lot of “classical” occult books of the twentieth century. People are calling it out, and that’s a good thing, in my view.

5. How has life in northern England influenced your work?

I lived in Yorkshire between 1984-1991, although I spent three years there earlier, between 1978-81. For the most part, I was really poor, living below the poverty line during a period of mass unemployment. Still, I managed to keep busy, being an activist for networks like PaganLink and HOBLink (a LGBT pagan network), co-editing with Rodney Orpheus a monthly pagan zine, going to and organising conferences, and generally doing a lot of magic for myself and others – and continually writing about it. I self-published some small books and produced books for others. That early experience in publishing was foundational in my later professional life – working first in book publishing at Psychic Press, then spending 15 years producing magazines for a business-to-business Aviation publisher. In 2019 I set up my own press imprint – Twisted Trunk, and have released two books so far by Mike Magee – translations and commentaries on rare tantric texts. More about them at: https://enfolding.org/books/

6. Do you feel like there are fundamental differences between American and British magicians?

I wouldn’t say so. Some of my best friends are American magicians. Despite divergent cultural backgrounds and experiences we don’t seem to have a problem communicating.

7. What advice would you give someone just starting to explore magic?

1. Question everything you read.
2. Don’t take it too seriously – keep a sense of perspective.
3. If in doubt, try it out.

8. Recently your book “Hine’s Varieties: Chaos & Beyond” was released. What can readers find in this latest release?

“Hine’s Varieties” (2019) is a collection of essays from different points of my life. Since I’d been writing on occult matters for over 40 years, I thought I could get away with a “collected essays” book. But I wanted to do more than just shove a bunch of essays together. The book is divided into thematic sections: Chaos, Paganisms, Practice, Tantra, Sexualities, Histories, Fiction. For each section I’ve opened with some autobiographical reflections, and chosen essays that I hope, reflect how my ideas have progressed over time. I’ve tried also to provide context for each piece, why I wrote it, what had been going on in my life at the time – that sort of thing. The essays range from things written for small pagan ‘zines in the 1980s to very recent blog posts and anthology essays.

(Editors Note: You can find Hine’s Varieties here.)

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects our readers should know about?

I have a new book – “Queering Occultures” – that will be out in a few weeks time from Original Falcon Press. It’s a collection of essays exploring different facets of what it means to “queer” occult practices and concepts. It should be available early February, if not before. Also in progress is Delinquent Elementals by Rodney Orpheus and myself. It’s a collection of essays, news stories and humour from Pagan News – a monthly ‘zine Rodney & I created in the late 80s. That should be out later in the year from Strange Attractor Press. Aside from that, I hope to be doing more lectures this year, and there may well be some further releases from my own Twisted Trunk small press.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What’s the weirdest answer you’ve ever had from an interviewee?

Actually, I have a whole interview that was weird. I once interviewed author Deborah Blake’s cat, Magic. I mainly did it because I thought it would be cute, and it was. Here’s the interview.

About Phil Hine:
Phil Hine has been a practising Occultist for over forty-five years, with a career spanning Wicca, Ritual Magic, Chaos Magic and nondual Tantra. Together with Rodney Orpheus he co-created and edited the UK’s first monthly Pagan magazine, Pagan News (1988-92). He is a former initiate of the Illuminates of Thanateros, The Esoteric Order of Dagon, and the Arcane & Mystical Order of the Knights of Shamballa (AMOOKOS). He was an activist in Pagan networks in the 1980s such as PaganLink and HOBLink – the UK’s first network for LGBTQ occult practitioners. He lives in London, England.

His books include: Condensed Chaos, Prime Chaos, The Pseudonomicon, and Hine’s Varieties: Chaos & Beyond. He has also self-published lectures on the history of Chakras and Possession in early Tantric literature. In 2019 he founded Twisted Trunk, a small press specializing in publishing translations of rare Tantric texts.

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10 Questions with Roxie Zwicker

Today we’re speaking with podcaster, author, and New England’s Mystery Maven, Roxie Zwicker! Join us as discuss walking tours, ghosts, and why New England is the best.

1. You’ve built a bit of a spooky empire with New England Curiosities, walking tours and events, and several books exploring graveyards. How did this all come about?

I’ve always had an inquisitive – or curious personality. Going on field trips as a child, I was always the one asking – “Is this place haunted?” Also, I had some early spiritual experiences that made me a believer in a world beyond the veil. In addition, being adopted into a family always made me the odd one out. I often wondered if people I walked by on the street were related to me. It was hard to find a sense of self at times, and if I walked through a graveyard as a young adult I would ponder, what if I was connected to someone buried there. There is an aspect of healing my past that I became aware of very early on as this path opened up. It was never my intention to create an empire, and if I had to orchestrate a map there would be a lot of twists and turns along the way with a few key moments. One of those key moments was back in the early 1990s when I took a second job as a storyteller on a haunted hayride in the Plymouth, Massachusetts area. It was the best job interview ever, with the final interview request was to scream as long and loud as I could inside a barn. I truly loved that job as it was a wonderful blend of creativity, ghost stories and spooky fun. Flash forward to 2001 and I got involved with a volunteer group that took care of a lighthouse on the New Hampshire seacoast. I had an unusual idea of trying a ghost walk in the local seaside park as a fundraiser. I went through the process of getting permissions and wrote the tour myself and I thought that maybe a handful of people might come out. To my surprise, I sold out four walks at about 50 people each, and the seeds were sown. What I didn’t expect at the end of each walk were the local haunted stories that guests would share with me. The next year I added my own walking tour in downtown Portsmouth and before I knew it I had written and conducted 9 different tours on the seacoast. The tours gained some local attention which opened up pathways to writing books based on my research that led to national television exposure with the Travel Channel and the History Channel. I finally managed to take the jump a few years back and made this my full-time job. It was a scary, but gradual jump, with some sacrifices along the way, but you don’t know unless you try. I eat, breathe, live and sleep New England Curiosities – it’s my Magical Buffet!

2. Can you tell my readers what your walking tours involve?

The tours are a blend of history, folklore and ghost stories with a backdrop of beautiful architecture. On each tour we walk just under a mile and explore each neighborhood as it was centuries ago. We talk about hidden history, like tunnels, secrets tucked into architecture or old burial customs. The stories are a rollercoaster ride, sometimes told with humor (and bad puns) and sometimes the stories are disturbing and downright creepy. On some tours I will share old photos or newspaper headlines to add that extra layer of connection. I strive to tell the stories of everyone from the colorful locals to the historically famous people who visited the city. I love to do research on a continual basis to update and add to the stories all the time. In about an hour and a half we time travel and bring thought provoking chapters of haunted history to our guests. My goal is for people to walk away with a deeper appreciation for where we explored and to also understand that a lot of people are having some amazing spirited experiences out there. I usually give folks a little homework for additional local sites to check out on their way home.

3. How can someone find a reputable walking tour?

Great question! In over 20 years of doing my own tours I have taken other ghost tours and I’ve also received a lot of valuable feedback from my guests. I really enjoy tours where the guide is the researcher and not an actor hired to memorize a script. Tours that offer the history behind the ghost stories tend to be the most memorable to me. You can always check their on-line reviews to see what people are saying. Has the host of the walking tour written any books, or contributed to local history projects. It’s so important to consider that your guide is the voice to the past and in many cases is representing the people and the history of an area. How well did they get to know the location and its people?

4. What role does your spirituality play in your business?

In the very beginning I used to keep my spirituality out of the tour business because I wanted the stories to stand on their own. However, after a couple of years, I discovered that spirituality is something that has come up in discussions during the tours and afterwards as well. Many of my guests will often say, “I’ve never told anyone before, but I think you’ll understand…” then they will proceed to share their spirited experience of their spiritual beliefs. I sincerely appreciate the comfort that people feel in approaching me and I am always grateful for those connections that we make. I truly believe that spirits have so much they can teach us and that they are often there supporting us.

5. When it comes to purported hauntings, do you find a common theme?

One theme that I see often, is that many people are frightened by the idea of a location being haunted – and might even consider that a place needs to be “cleansed” or the spirit needs to move on. But people are often surprised that oftentimes you don’t actually have to go on a haunted tour to have an experience. We all have a spiritual support team of guides, guardians and ancestors. I have one cemetery tour where we not only talk to the spirits in the burial ground, but we ask them about the spirits that have come in on the tour with us. After we raise a few eyebrows when we turn the tables on our guests, we then explore decoding the spiritual signs we receive or discuss “coincidences.” We might do some L-rod dowsing and some spirit communication to delve into why spirits are around. There have been occasions where people sometimes don’t realize that the experiences they are having aren’t from the house that they are living in, but it could be a deceased friend or relative checking in on them – rather than some wandering spirit trying to scare them.

6. With the rise in popularity of the true crime genre, people are beginning to express concerns of minimizing victims or sensationalizing death. What are your thoughts on that discussion?

It has almost been of utmost importance to be sensitive and respectful to the stories that I tell. I am very selective about stories that I tell that took place in the last 40 years. Over the years I have had a lot of guests directly related to my stories on my tours or at my events, whether they were a descendant or directly knew the story. I have had law enforcement officers on my tours, I have even been questioned by detectives working a local case after one of my tours. If someone feels the need to sensationalize a death on a tour, they are not only disrespecting the person, but they are setting a bad example. There is a responsibility the storyteller has to their subject as well as their audience. Empathy is a necessity as a storyteller and understanding why you are telling the story; Is it to inform your listener, perhaps to enthrall them – it should never be to exploit the story.

7. What is your favorite thing about the New England region of the United States?

There is no other place I’d rather live than New England. The layers of history are my favorite things about New England. There are so many intriguing stories about the region that go back even before the colonization of the area. The peoples that lived here and visited here thousands of years ago have their stories carved into the rocks and hidden on remote islands along the coast. Combine the layers of history with the architecture, cobblestone streets, old burial grounds of New England, there is so much to explore and I never tire of those places.

8. Casper, Beetlejuice, or Slimer?

Casper! I grew up reading Casper comic books and I used to laugh at how frightened everyone seemed in the stories. (I have totally dated myself with that response, haven’t I?)

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

I’m finishing up my 9th book, which should be out later in 2023. It’s on Vermont graveyard history, folklore and ghost stories, it’s part of my Book of the Dead series. I’ve just started season four of my podcast, Wicked Curious, which I’ve been researching and writing new stories for. I have a Oracle card project that I’ve been developing over the past four years as well.

10. Parting Shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

If I were to lay out a velvet tablecloth on an old table and the Magical Buffet would be setting up a dinner party, what would that look like?

I’d love to think it would be overflowing with all my favorite dishes from a variety of global cuisines: pho, steamed meat dumplings, mofongo, etc. However, in honesty It would probably end up with a bunch of deep fried appetizers and cocktails.

About Roxie Zwicker:
New England’s Mystery Maven, Roxie Zwicker has been entertaining the locals, visitors from away and curious souls since 1994. Her company New England Curiosities, located in Portsmouth, NH has been offering award winning tours, presentations and special events since 2002 based on New England folklore and ghost stories. Roxie’s TV appearances include New Hampshire Chronicle, New England Cable News, The History Channel and the Travel Channel! Roxie is a published author of 8 books that delve into history, legends and lore. Wicked Curious Radio is Roxie’s podcast available on all major podcast platforms. Her website, which offers information about tours, classes and special events can be found at www.newenglandcuriosities.com

Get your own copy of my favorite Zwicker book here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

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10 Questions with S. Elizabeth

Today we’re talking with S. Elizabeth, writer and curator extraordinaire of “The Art of the Occult” and “The Art of Darkness.”

1. I became familiar with you when your previous book “The Art of the Occult” released, and now you’re back with “The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre.” Was it hard to convince your publisher that there was an audience for books discussing art?

I don’t think it took much convincing at at all, and as it happens, my editor is the one who pitched both ideas to me! She reached out to me originally in 2019 for The Art of the Occult, a book which she had the idea for, she just needed someone to write it! I am not sure how she happened upon me and I have never asked (I’m weirdly shy to ask such a thing!) but I imagine it’s because I have been writing about art and artists for well over a decade now, and many of these artists have esoteric or occult leanings. I have been privileged to work with the same editor at the same publisher over the past 3 years, and I think for the most part she really “gets” me. She’s the impetus for The Art of Darkness as well–she presented the idea to me! And this publisher, The Quarto Group, as far as I can tell, is very big on art and artists, that’s very much their thing, to publish inspiring niche-interest books are visually appealing, information rich, and stimulating.

2. What is your process for selecting art for these books? Do you need to seek permission to use works of art in your books?

I’ve been collecting art online for as long as I’ve been online…I’ve been keeping a sort of mental rolodex for the past 20 years! So for both books, I already had so many works in mind for each of the projects. What I did is I started with a wish list of hundreds of artists that I would like to include in the book, which I would then share with my editor, who would give me feedback. Feedback usually looked like “too illustrative or too comic book-y or cartoon-y “or what have you (those pieces absolutely have a place in the art world and in my heart, but they may have not been quite the right fit for the books, I get it, even if I might have been a little disappointed!) So I would whittle down my list and build it back up based on loads of research and my editor’s suggestions, and then when I had a good-sized list to look at, I would look it over with an eye toward building groupings of images based on themes. I didn’t want the chapters ordered chronologically, or in terms of art movements, I wanted something that felt much more interesting and imaginative. So after some thought, I structured The Art of Darkness into three parts, each broken down further into four chapters. So you’d have something like Part I: It’s All In Your Head, in which we would then have chapters about dreams and nightmares, psychological distress and whispers from the void. Further parts include The Human Condition, The World Around Us, and Visions from Beyond. I am really quite pleased with how it all pulled together!

AND YES ABSOLUTELY. Permission to use the artwork is a MUST and it is a PROCESS. Gathering the permissions nearly takes as long as writing the book. Some images are in the public domain, and some can be acquired from museums and galleries, but there is a lot of reaching out to individual artists that has to occur, as well. And I did a lot of that work myself…and it’s not exactly a straightforward process. Between tracking down contact information for the artist (if they are still alive, that is–otherwise, you might be dealing with galleries, estates, etc.) and actually finding them and receiving those permissions, you then have the concern of whether or not the artist can provide a high-enough resolution of the work, whether it fits with the layout of the book, and to backtrack a bit–whether or not the publisher even agrees that the images you’ve suggested will be appropriate for the overall project. In the course of this process of research and reaching out, which was never tedious, believe it or not–I love to track down elusive art and artists!– I got a lot of email bounce backs, and oftentimes even if the email appeared to go through, there were a handful of artists I never heard back from. Sometimes I did get a response and received a “no” right off the bat. Sometimes, too, this occurred after some back and forth between myself and the artist, and we arrived at the determination that maybe my book wasn’t a good fit for their artistic vision. And that’s OK! It really is. It’s not all going to work out, and you can’t always get everything you want, and after getting over a bit of initial frustration, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.

With regard to those artists who are no longer with us, sometimes I couldn’t track down an estate contact, and when I did I never heard back from them. If it was the publisher reaching out, sometimes they either couldn’t come to an agreement or they were perhaps unable to acquire a high enough resolution image that would work for this particular print medium.

I know that was a lot of not -terribly-interesting info and not everyone cares how the sausage is made, but that all brings me to a point that I cannot stress enough. There are always going to be readers or critics who say “oh, I can’t believe she forgot to include X/Y/Z artist!” All of that boring explanation I gave just now? Any one of those reasons could be why I was unable to include such-and-such or so-and-so. It’s so galling that people automatically presume that I (or anyone in this position) “forgot.” Okay, so I don’t want to end that thought on a negative note, but that’s just something that always burns my muffins. Ugh.

3. After “The Art of the Occult”, what made you decide that darkness would be a good theme to explore, and were your publishers like, “What?”

I believe what happened is that over the course of working with me on The Art of the Occult, my editor had seen a blog post of mine in which I wrote about where my fascination with horror/darkness grew from, and the idea for The Art of Darkness was born from that. She came to me with a mostly fully fleshed out pitch, we built it out a little and she took it to the marketing team, who, I am told, loved the idea. I don’t quite get how that end of it works, and I realize that most of the time, probably none of it works that way at all, so I got pretty lucky! Sometimes we’re just too close to a thing to even think about it as a viable idea that others might have an interest in, so I wonder if it it ever would have occurred to me to write such a book if it wasn’t suggested to me? Maybe …? Who knows! I am glad I don’t have to guess. I will share that at first they wanted to call it “The Art of the Macabre,” and to be honest I didn’t love that. I feel like you’re going into that knowing exactly what you’re going to get. The Art of Darkness, though? That’s a bit more nebulous, there’s some mystery there. I liked that, and I really pushed for it.

4. What is the importance of exploring dark themes in artwork?

Well, The Art of Darkness was conceived of at a time when “Good Vibes Only” was a big thing that influencers and wellness gurus were all espousing. And that really rubbed me the wrong way. We’ve since started talking about that attitude as “toxic positivity” and I was sort of thinking of this book as the antidote to aggressively good vibes. A way to sit in a safe space with unpleasant, distressing, things that don’t feel good, and maybe find something beautiful or meaningful there. Or at least give yourself the opportunity to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ever since I learned as a child that we all at some point experience difficult and troubling feelings or behaviors or conditions, whether that be fright or fury, melancholy or misery, sadness or sickness, I have been fascinated by how we describe and communicate these things, these darker aspects of the human condition–especially as it relates to language and visuals, and in particular the way these things are depicted in art. We all experience darkness. We can’t avoid it, and I don’t think we should. When we dismiss negative emotions and respond to distress with false reassurances, we are neither dealing with reality as it is nor adequately readying ourselves for the random pains and struggles that life has in store for us. As humans, for our emotional wellbeing, we need to experience and embody the full spectrum of feelings and emotions. Shit happens. Pain is pain, feelings are feelings. And we need to feel them. I think art is one of the ways that we can experience some dark shit and feel those feelings in a space of your own choosing that feels controlled and safe. Granted I am not an artist, a therapist, or an art therapist. But this is how I feel as a human who experiences darkness, and I think the idea has a great deal of merit to it.

5. You frequently discuss the darkness that haunts many of the artists featured in your book. Do you feel the “tortured artist” archetype is too frequently held up as the way to successfully be creative?

I do feel like the romanticization or the fetishizing of the tortured artist is a harmful mindset. We have for the longest time perpetuated this myth implying that an artist must experience pain, physically or mentally, to produce great works of art, that “madness makes the artist.” That artists need to make something beautiful from their pain for it to have meaning. That they must find meaning in their pain at all. Personally, I think that’s horseshit. This is of course the opinion of a layperson. The relationship between art and mental illness/wellness is complex and I don’t know how much I can really comment on it, having exactly zero background or training in mental health …although I do come from a family where every member suffers either with some form of depression or struggles with substance abuse, myself included…so maybe on some level that gives me a tiny bit of insight? Personally speaking, do I lean into my depression and anxiety and self-destructive behavior, because that suffering enriches my writing, and the torment proliferates my creativity? Those who glorify such things would suggest that yes, it’s vital for my work. But you know what? Art is vital. Period. Full stop. We’ve earned the right to share our art because we’re alive and we made that art. We painted the canvas, sculpted the statue, wrote the book, did the thing, not because we’re fucked up in some kind of way, but despite it. That is success as I define it.

6. What are a few of your favorite pieces featured in “The Art of Darkness,” and why?

Oh GOSH. I love so many of them, so much! I’ve been interviewing artists for years and it was amazing to include many of them in these pages, artists whose work has captivated me from the moment I saw it, and over the time that I’ve known them, I’ve seen their work grow and evolve in the most fascinating ways, such as Becky Munich, Amy Earles, Caitlin McCormack. Death Positive artists such as Rebecca Reeves, Susan Jamison, and Paul Koudanaris, whose works spark empathy and awareness and that conversations about death and dying are a cornerstone of a healthy society. But my favorite pieces? Well. Here’s a thing about me. It’s true, while I live to revel in the velvet shadows of a moonlit midnight and seek spirits in every lonely, crumbling corner, it’s not like I’m a gloomy Gus about it. If you can’t laugh at what lies waiting in the hungry maw of darkness, if you can’t giggle with the ghosts, or cackle into the nothing of the abyss–well, that’s hardly living, you know? If I have somehow fooled people into thinking I’m all about mystery and melancholy, monsters and morbidity, okay, well, that’s all true, I am. But it’s more than balanced with a significant sense of silliness, an appreciation of the absurd, and an adoration of ridiculousness. My favorite emotion to express is “demented glee”! I mean, I’m really just a goofy weirdo, is what I am trying to say here.

So it would stand to reason that I have massive admiration for artists who can combine these sensibilities in their practice, and these works of the kooky and the macabre, often filled with sly, weird humor are some of my favorite canvases to gaze upon. Enter Ruth Marten and Charley Harper. AND the cherry on top is cover artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, whose work I have described thusly:

“Initially, I was torn, truly torn, when examining the painstaking collage work of Alex Eckman-Lawn. Deep, dense, full of doom and gloom and dark details, these surreal, lonely portraits, on one hand, called forth a sickening dread in the pit of my stomach and give my heart a little lurch. But on the other, and at the same time… they caused an involuntary, choking giggle. As if a shadowy horror had crawled its way from the void to the sanctity of my home, and after an agonizing wait whilst I cowered at the peephole, it gave a smart rap on the door and told me a knock-knock joke.

Perhaps it’s an odd take on things, but I once envisioned the above scenario, I saw these pieces through fresh eyes– and instead of a face-full of nightmarish chaos, they appeared wondrously playful, like a funny postcard from the midnight recesses of your soul, just when you need it most. Have a laugh, they seem to say, or here, have a kitten! Oh, hey, it’s just your dear old skull peeking out to say hello, that’s all, no worries! Little voids, the faces-within-your face, checking in on you from the inside, popping out to say, “hi!” and, “how’s it going?” and, “have you heard the one about…?”

7. Goya, Van Gogh, or Brom? (FYI, loved seeing Brom turn up in the book!)

Ok, this is maybe a controversial take, but while we absolutely need to learn from and honor all those that came before…I don’t believe dead artists need our support all that much, you know? So Brom’s macabre, majestic creations, for sure. Or maybe the choice out of these three is too easy because while I can certainly appreciate Goya and Van Gogh, they just don’t excite me the way a moody 16th century Dutch still life might or a lonely midnight mountaintop by a lesser-known artist would. Maybe I’m just a philistine, who knows. Or maybe you’d show me paintings of what I just described and I’d still choose Brom! I mean, I really love Brom.

8. What type of art do you have on display in your home?

It’s mostly contemporary, like I would say probably 99% of it. And I would say that it is also mostly artists that I know. Again, going back to that idea of supporting artists. I’d much rather give my money to someone alive and creating and making art right now, and even better if it is something that I’ve interacted with, rather than buying a reproduction online of some renowned piece of art that was painted by someone who lived and died a hundred years ago. Although I am not criticizing that! However one chooses to beautify their home is up to them and certainly none of my business. Except I will say that I always see this quote:

“People need art in their houses. They don’t need Bed Bath and Beyond dentist-office art. They need weird stuff.”

…and I’m like, really?? Who is out there buying Bed Bath and Beyond art??

As to what “type”…I guess you could say it’s all pretty dark. I l do like my witches and ghosts and eerie landscapes and spooky castles and creepy crawlies. I can think of only two exceptions; one is a giant print from the NYPL of a carte de visite of my creepy fashion icon, Maria Germanova and the other is a canvas that my mother in law painted for my husband and I when we got married. It’s weird and charming and I love it more than words can say.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

I sure do! I just started a newsletter, where I share little treasuries of stuff that I like or that I’m up to/into; at the beginning of the summer I started my Patreon where I talk about perfume, which is another passion of mine, and I do have a YouTube channel where I talk about various nonsense, and I hope to be updating it regularly soon! The biggest thing, I guess is that I am currently working on a third book for the Art in the Margins series, and this one will have a focus on fantasy! It is scheduled for publishing in September of 2023.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Just one?! Argh! Ok, but I will make it a two-parter:

Dark art–who is your favorite artist? Above ground and below?

Above ground, a favorite of mine who have own many prints from is NeNe Thomas, who does fantasy illustrations. I wouldn’t describe much of her work as “dark”, but her artistic landscape is sometimes populated by desolate winterscapes and the occasional vampire or demon.

Below ground, Keith Haring. Again, not traditionally “dark”, however, people frequently forget that buried in his MASSIVE catalog of brightly colored, cartoon art, are pieces that reflect the pain and fear of the AIDs epidemic.

I also should mention, I’m a HUGE fan of artwork inspired by Dia de Muertos and Santa Muerte. LOVE IT!

About S. Elizabeth:
S.Elizabeth is a writer, curator, and frill-seeker. Her essays and interviews focusing on esoteric art have appeared in Haute Macabre, Coilhouse, Dirge Magazine, Death & The Maiden, and her occulture blog Unquiet Things, which intersects music, fashion, horror, perfume, and grief. She is the co-creator of The Occult Activity Book Vol. 1 and 2 and the author of The Art of the Occult (2020), The Art of Darkness (2022), and The Art of Fantasy (2023)

Get your own copy of “The Art of Darkness” here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! Https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions with Liz Dean

Today we’re talking about all things tarot with Liz Dean, author of over 20 books focusing on tarot and spirituality and the new book “Tarot By Numbers: Learn the Codes that Unlock the Meaning of the Cards.”

1. What first drew you to tarot?

As a child, I was fascinated by portrayals of tarot and tarot readings on television – UK shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, with its opening credits showing a carousel of tarot cards, and of course Solitaire in the Bond film Live and Let Die. I loved the cards’ imagery without understanding them – so it was very much an intuitive pull for me.

2. Your latest book, “Tarot by Numbers” discusses using the number of the card as a jumping off point to doing a reading. When did you realize this was a viable way to use the tarot?

I began to experience number as symbol around ten years or so ago (I’ve been reading cards for almost 35 years); and more intensely, over the past three years. It then struck me that, in tarot teaching, this is a way for students to access the whole deck, rather than only relate the cards’ numbers to, say, timescales for future events. Numbers have particular energies, and like images, act as portals to other ways of seeing. Numbers make understanding tarot so accessible, because we all have an innate relationship with certain numbers (unlucky 13, lucky 7); that’s the starting point.

3. It seems like readers are continually finding new ways to use and/or interpret tarot cards. Do you think we’ll ever run out of tarot discoveries?

Tarot is always relevant to the times in which we live because the cards show archetypes that are a part of our human experience. We interpret these archetypes – the Fool, Empress (mother), Hermit (seeker, monk), for example, in the language of our times. So the potential is endless.

4. How do you feel about oracle decks and other non-tarot style decks?

I welcome all means of self-discovery. Often, I find that tarot students begin with oracle decks and progress to tarot. At times I work with both – pulling an oracle card at the end of a tarot reading can bring through a closing nugget of wisdom.

5. You’re British and reside in the U.K. Do you find there is a difference in the way Americans approach tarot compared to the British?

I don’t feel that there is a difference – only in pronunciation! (West coast, ‘ta-row’, East Coast, ‘tarot’). I do love the US tarot community – I’ve met so many passionate and erudite readers at Reader’s Studio in New York, the world’s largest tarot gathering.

6. What are a few of your favorite tarot decks, and why?

Of course, I love my Game of Thrones Tarot, which I co-created with artist Craig Coss. Then there’s Janine Worthington’s In Between Tarot; Modern Witch Tarot from Lisa Sterle, and the Rider Waite Smith.

7. What is your best advice to someone who wants to start learning how to read tarot?

Find a deck you love. You need to adore the colour, the imagery, and even the box artwork. Buy a deck you naturally want to touch. When you have the right deck, invest in a tarot journal. Begin reading for yourself and record your readings. You’ll get to see which cards recur for you and investigate them more deeply. Do a daily three-card reading; this builds a relationship between you and your cards. Take your time and try not to get overwhelmed with YouTube tutorials or too many tarot books.

And – when you read cards, resist the temptation to check the card’s meaning in the book. Instead, go with how the card makes you feel – look at the colour, the number, the symbols and landscapes: images stimulate imagination, intuition and creativity. Speak your impressions aloud when you’re on your own, as this energizes your reading. Tarot is a live practice, so read in the moment and don’t worry that you should know a card’s meaning. Take the Fool’s leap of faith!

8. Are there any misconceptions about tarot that you’d like to take a moment here to address?

First, Tarot has nothing to do with evil or negative ideas of the occult – the earliest cards date to the Renaissance and have Christian imagery (and these are the archetypes used in many decks today). Second, your future is not set. You have free will; tarot helps you see the influences around you, and how those influences might unfold given present circumstances. With this awareness, you become better placed to make decisions, understand relationships, communicate effectively and follow your passion.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

Tarot by Numbers is my twenty-second book, so I’ll be having a lie down with a gin and tonic. But watch this space…

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Not yet.

About Liz Dean:
Liz Dean (London, England) is a professional tarot reader and Angelic Reiki™ Healer at Psychic Sisters in Selfridges, London. A best-selling tarot author, Liz had studied divination for over 20 years. Liz is the author of “The Golden Tarot” (over 300,000 sold worldwide), “The Ultimate Guide to Tarot”, “The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Spreads”, “The Victorian Steampunk Tarot”, “Fairy Tale Fortune Cards”, “44 Ways to Talk to Your Angels”, “The Tarot Companion”, “The Divination Handbook”, and “Tarot Made Simple”. Liz is also one of the “Tarot Masters” included in Kim Arnold’s eponymous collection of 38 essays. In addition, she is a former co-editor of the UK’s leading spiritual magazine, “Kindred Spirit” (2011–2013), and an award-winning poet. Find Liz online at https://lizdean.info/.

You can learn more here.

Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! Https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions with Mike Nevitt

Today we’re talking with Mike Nevitt about his life as a full-time yoga and meditation instructor and his adorable and humorous new book “The Lighter Side of Yoga.”

1. What first drew you to the practice of yoga?
Like so many others I was initially drawn to the practice of yoga as a way to control stress and find some mental balance and calm.

2. What made you decide to become a full-time teacher of yoga and meditation?
After a while of practicing I realised that I loved what it offered more and more, it became a lifestyle and eventually I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My move towards becoming a full time teacher was a very natural and organic process. I didn’t take any formal teacher training, just shared with small groups what I had learned. The small groups became bigger and bigger and I just became a very well-known teacher in the UK. No one ever asked to see any formal qualifications.

3. Did you always have a sense of humor about the yoga/spiritual space, or was it something that developed with time and experience?
I have a deep respect for yoga and meditation and if anything I always took myself, and the practice a little too seriously. The sense of humour thing was something that developed gradually, especially as I became more and more disillusioned with trends that were occurring within the modern yoga scene. Even though the cartoons in the book can be seen as funny, each of them contains a statement that is more grounded in truth than humour.

4. What inspired you to start creating comics about the foibles of those who practice and teach yoga and meditation?
I think it was just a rising frustration and increasing dismay with the ‘yoga scene’ As I say in my introduction to the book I did a little scribble one day of a guy disturbing everyone in relaxation by answering a call on his phone. I posted it online and it got a huge positive response. To get such a large response from people identifying with the situation was like therapy. Inspired I did another scribble and that also got a large response. So began the process of pouring out all these little scribbles which ultimately turned into the book ‘The Lighter Side of Yoga’.

5. You have a few recurring characters in your comics. Do you have a personal favorite and why?
Cosmic Johnny is my favourite character, I love him, he’s me! He’s completely out there and crazy with ideas and contemplations!

6. How do you create your comics? Do you draw it freehand, use software, a combination of both?
I draw the initial cartoon as a freehand line drawing and then take it into some paint software to add colour and text.

7. Yoga and meditation with music or without? If with, what do you like for it?
Yoga sometimes with music, usually a relaxing background mantra. Meditation is always in silence for me, absolute contemplation of breathing in and breathing out and the ‘feeling’ of the present moment. Nothing else.

8. What do you find to be common misconception about yoga?
The classic ‘You have to be flexible to do yoga and the equally classic ‘I can’t do meditation, my mind is just too busy’

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?
Yeah, a number of exciting new projects that I’m getting together to present to my publisher. First one is titled ‘A journey through Strange with Cosmic Johnny and Yogi Mike’ It’s basically me and Cosmic Johnny sharing our thoughts and contemplations about meditation, the mind, the universe, consciousness, time travel and the delights of a fine red wine. The second is titled ‘Running for the Swings’ which is a collection of magical memories from my childhood growing up in poverty on a harsh northern council estate in the UK.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Your page is amazing, why do you not have more followers?!
Obviously not everyone has such refined taste as yourself.

About Mike Nevitt:
Mike Nevitt has been a practitioner and full-time teacher of yoga and meditation for over 25 years and has led workshops and seminars worldwide. He was formerly a graphic designer and commercial artist working in advertising agencies and design studios in the UK. You can find him at The Lighter Side of Yoga on Facebook and you can find his book here.

Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! Https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions Tobias Churton (and Giveaway)

Today we’re talking with Tobias Churton, an authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism, and author of the book “Aleister Crowley in England: The Return of the Great Beast.”

1. I realize it’s hard to summarize, but for my readers who may not be familiar with him, who is Aleister Crowley?

Christened Edward Alexander Crowley, Aleister (his pen-name) Crowley was born in 1875 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, the son of a self-financing Plymouth Brethren Christian preacher whose family had made a fortune in brewing. An only child, Crowley was brought up with little contact with non-Brethren families and encouraged to see the Bible as having the literal truth about everything. After his father’s death, aged 11, he reacted against his mother and uncle’s indoctrination and started to see a pleasant life beyond strict doctrine. He was educated at numerous schools and by private tutors until recommended for Cambridge University’s Trinity College by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. He studied modern languages, literature and chemistry with a view to becoming a diplomat. While a student he distinguished himself as a daring, original mountaineer in the UK and the Alps and devoted his spare time when not climbing to poetry, inspired by Swinburne and Browning. When he came into his fortune he didn’t care to complete his final examinations, decided there was no lasting fame in diplomatic service, and struck out on a personal career in Magick, poetry and mountaineering. He was trained as a ceremonial magician in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded for men and women by British Freemasons. When the Order split apart in 1900 he began his world travels, crossing to America, thence to Hawaii, Japan, China and Ceylon where he studied raj yoga with his friend Allan Bennett, who would go on to lead the first Buddhist sangha to Great Britain. Crowley joined his friend Oscar Eckenstein on the first attempt on K2 in the Karakorams in 1902, then went to Cairo and Paris where he involved himself with the Montparnasse artistic scene, being friendly with painter Gerald Kelly, whose sister Rose, Crowley married as a ruse to get her out of an unwanted liaison in 1903. They fell in love. During their honeymoon in 1904, Rose told him in Cairo that “they” were waiting for him. “They” appeared to be the “Secret Chiefs” of the Order which Crowley had joined. Following Rose’s instructions, he invoked the god Horus in rented rooms in Cairo and over three days took down by direct voice dictation what came to be called The Book of the Law, a message from a kind of angel called “Aiwas” outlining that a new Aeon had come about with a distinctly Nietzschean quality to it; Crowley was its prophet. Crowley initially ignored the text but as time went on he attributed his gradually failing fortunes to his ignoring it. By 1909 he was dedicated to leading a new Order, the Astrum Argentinum, into the new Aeon, which set him against numerous prevailing doctrines of the times. What happened after that time until his death in Hastings in 1947, you can read about in the six volumes of Churton’s biography of Crowley.

2. “Aleister Crowley in England: The Return of the Great Beast” is your fifth book detailing a period of Crowley’s life. What made you to decide to focus on Crowley’s life as a topic?

I felt a great injustice had been done to Crowley and that his achievements and insights deserved an accurate telling without prejudice and based solely on the surviving records, of which there are a great deal. I gained access to his private papers, diaries and letters and have researched the subject over forty years.

3. I’m always so conflicted when considering Crowley. Is he an eccentric iconoclast, sensitive scholar, entitled snob, all of the above?

I think he was all of the above. He had snobbish tendencies but he never turned people away from himself on account of their background. He considered himself a chivalrous aristocrat, insofar as the word “aristocrat” implies government by “the best.” He had a passion for justice, and was a strong advocate of the rights of the individual, male or female to pursue their true goals in life without restriction.

4. I was surprised to learn that Crowley was using medically prescribed heroin for an assortment of health issues later in life. How far back does that use go and how much, if at all, you feel it affected his behavior?

Crowley was prescribed heroin for bronchitis and asthma in 1919 by his family doctor, Dr Harold Batty Shaw of Harley Street, London, a distinguished surgeon. It was the only medicine that brought temporary relief from a condition which got worse during the 1920s, several times nearly resulting in death. When in Germany in 1931-32 he found a German medication which he used instead but could not obtain it after returning to England in May 1932. His heroin was provided by doctor’s prescription. The use of the drug might have made him rather verbose in his writing at certain times, and emphasised occasionally the dreamy and mystical tendency to be out of this world, but his intellect was sharp, and his humour was rich, until the end. Physically he suffered badly during World War Two, on account of nerves over German bombing and concern for others and his mission in life, and he never recovered the great strength he enjoyed until the end of World War One.

5. You’re based out of England, and I’m curious if you notice a difference in the perception of Crowley between England and the United States?

I don’t see a great deal of difference. Perception of Crowley very much depends on education and personal experience. All kinds of “seekers” have some response to Crowley, and it often depends on which bodies of commitment any individual favours. Theosophists, for example, are often deeply suspicious of Crowley, whereas Freemasons vary one way or the other. Some only see the public image, which is ludicrous and deliberately off-putting. There are fanatically minded zealots who seems to be obsessed by their own propaganda, and the US seems to have more than its fair share of such cases, but fanaticism is to be found in most places where people have access to a little knowledge, but little inclination to study subjects in depth and with objectivity. The internet has been a great thing but also a dangerous thing because all information is presented on the same plane. People want to know what’s “really” happening in the world, but don’t want to wait long for an answer, and settle for sketches which are often no more than cartoons or mere graffiti. Obviously, it’s difficult for many Americans to understand the subtle nuances that go into an Edwardian Englishman’s outlook on the world (and vice versa), but Crowley had a universal mind and adored travel and meeting new phases of sensitivity and experience of things. He did not think much of the American dollar-oriented system as a system, but he liked Americans personally very much and would have liked to have spent the rest of his life in the States after he’d been back in England for eight years! He lived in the U.S. exclusively from the end of 1914 to the end of 1919: five long and eventful years. His American followers have been particularly devoted. His anti-Christian stance (which is not at all it seems to be) obviously alienates people who feel threatened by trenchant criticism of some traditional Christian doctrines (such as atonement by blood sacrifice).

6. I loved to learn that Crowley was quite the foodie, and enjoyed seeing his recipes in “Aleister Crowley in England.” Any chance of a Crowley cookbook in future?

I wanted to do that some years back but the copyright holder said the task had been given to someone else years ago – but they hadn’t done it. I should say the recipes in the book could all be created from the information in my book. But you’re right. I could have made it a real joy, I think.

7. You’re the founder of “Freemasonry Today” magazine. I think the general population considers Freemasons a secretive organization, so how did the magazine come about?

I heard the United Grand Lodge of England planned a magazine for public availability to help the public see what Freemasonry really was, and to help Freemasons understand their own Masonry better. So I wrote to the people who hoped to launch it, and was offered the job, which I was happy to do, as it was about finding the truth and telling it clearly.

8. Your work is academic, thoughtful, and accessible, yet you’re so prolific. Can you offer any insights into your research and writing process?

There’s no substitute for work. One thing is that after working in TV as a researcher, writer and director for about ten years in the 1980s, I had a terribly hard time in the 90s until 1997 – funnily enough the bad times followed after my biggest success, the book and TV series GNOSTICS – and I felt I had “lost” vital years where I wanted desperately to create and move forwards with new projects. I feared I would never regain my foothold on the mountain again, that my life was ruined. After 2000, an opening was made in the brick wall of resistance, and I started writing again, having got into the habit of writing and editing through the magazine Freemasonry Today which taught me new disciplines. I’ve felt that I had to make up for those awful lost years, so I do not procrastinate, and am grateful for every single new day where I know I can still write and think and create. My work-output would frighten many people, but I feel it is consistent with the very great driving force that has been in me since I was a child. I have long felt this world is in such a state that personally speaking, my only proper response is to give it every thing I possibly can in terms of the very best things that I can conceive of, and discover, and that I am hopefully and gratefully gifted and qualified to accomplish. The question is always there: how do we get out of the kind of fixed thinking that makes humankind keep repeating its mistakes and not learning from them, and growing up? This means deep, unremitting research and deep thought, and the energy to create. I work strict, long hours and like to finish the day with a trip to the pub and a chat with whoever enjoys good conversation and a joke. Then I like to eat a hearty dinner with a glass of wine, and see a good, classic movie – and hope my dreams match those of an older Hollywood for entertainment value!

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

I have just completed a new book called THE ORIGINS OF ALCHEMY. I have shared that fascination others have felt for this mysterious subject and wanted to get to the true bottom of it, and unravel the Gordian knot of confusion and obfuscation on the subject. I think this book will be the kind of experience I should like to have been presented with 40 years ago! It would have saved myself and others an awful lot of trouble! Next I intend to write an historical novel, and hopefully get my TV drama series I’ve written made for TV or film. It’s set in Paris in the 1880s and 1990s and is poetic, sexy and magical. It would also be nice if I could find a proper outlet for my music. I wrote my first orchestral tone-poem last year (52 minutes) as well as a new album of songs and instrumental works. I need several more lifetimes to feel I’ve given all I wish to give. And then, I expect I’d want to do more still. If my “cup runneth over” it’s because I haven’t yet been given a large enough cup!

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What do you think England has to offer the world these days?

Magically speaking, I feel England will always have something to offer. So many magical traditions have roots in the country that it will be kind of an eternal touchstone for magical studies. Also, England’s delicious curry and chips have yet to make their mark in America, so I have that to look forward to.

About Tobias Churton:
Tobias Churton is an authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism. Appointed Honorary Fellow of Exeter University in 2005, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and is the author of many books, including three previous books on Aleister Crowley—”Aleister Crowley in America”, “Aleister Crowley in India”, and “Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin”. He lives in the heart of England. You can find him at https://tobiaschurton.com/

You can learn more about “Aleiter Crowley in England” here.

Did you like the interview? Want to read “Aleister Crowley in England?” Good news! Inner Traditions was kind enough to send me an extra copy to give away to one of my readers! As per usual, I’ll be letting Rafflecopter do the work. The giveaway runs from 05/09/22 until 11:59pm eastern 05/13/22. The giveaway is open to people 18 year of age and older and reside in the United States. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! Https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions with Cairelle Crow & Laura Louella (Giveaway)

What happens when you interview two different authors separately about the same thing? In this case, you find out that they really do work well together. Please enjoy this interview with Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella as we discuss the anthology book they edited, “Brigid’s Light”, and everything that entailed.

1. I’m guessing most of my readers are familiar with Brigid, but for those who are not, can you explain who she is?

Cairelle Crow: Brigid is first documented in the folklore, mythology, and spiritual traditions of the Celtic nations of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany, as well as in England, where she is revered at numerous sacred sites. As a pre-Christian triple goddess of Ireland, she is an object of reverence over a wide expanse of northwestern Europe. She is also well-known as St. Brigid of Kildare. It is debated whether the saint is a continuation of the goddess, or whether the goddess and saint are completely different. Either way, many of her followers accept that the goddess and saint are inextricably entwined and it’s not unusual to see a mix of both traditions within one path.

Laura Louella: Brigid is multi-faceted. She is a mother, a daughter, a goddess and a saint. Her hearth fires blaze, she is the center. She has love and cares for the less fortunate. Brigid is a healer.

2. Why out of all the deities did you choose to devote an anthology to Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: While I work with a multitude of goddesses, Brigid is my matroness goddess and I wanted to honor her.

Laura Louella: I love her, she is at the heart of my home. She is a protectress, a humanitarian, lover of animals and she knows loss and grief. She is an example of how to live life.

3. Do you find there are any prevalent misconceptions about Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: Too many people mistakenly see Brigid as a “beginner” goddess, suitable only for those who need a gentle introduction to goddess spirituality and/or paganism. Brigid is multi-faceted and stands firmly within her boundaries and sovereignty. Her stories, myths, and legends reflect strength and determination. Practitioners of any level can learn from Brigid’s example.

Laura Louella: That she is a beginner goddess and only gentle. Some fail to see her many attributes, she stood up to power, she wasn’t afraid to face the hard things. She was not concerned about being popular when caring for the needs of others. And she showed her emotions and taught us how to as well.

4. Why an anthology, or compilation, instead of an entire book authored by yourself on the subject?

Cairelle Crow: There are so many perspectives on Brigid. I thought it would be great to highlight the many ways she is experienced by others. I was also interested in how she’s made her way around the world, traveling along with immigrants and through modern technology.

Laura Louella: There are so many people who love her, we wanted all the voices to shine their light on her.

5. How did you go about soliciting contributions for “Brigid’s Light”?

Cairelle Crow: We created a detailed request for submissions on our website and shared it on social media. We also asked others that we know are devotees and we asked them to write about their experiences.

Laura Louella: We reached out to people via social media, we contacted people we have studied with, and friends.

6. “Bridgid’s Light” was edited by both of you. How did that partnership come about and how did you divide the labor?

Cairelle Crow: We met when Laura picked me up from the airport. We were attending the same event and I needed a ride! We’d known each other online previously, and a close friendship developed after a discussion of our mutual devotion to Brigid. The anthology, from start to finish, was done together over Zoom sessions with a shared screen. We work well together, we shared a lot of laughs, and thoroughly enjoyed the process!

Laura Louella: We met when I picked up Cairelle at an airport in Oregon. We had met online but never in person. As we traveled back to California, we began sharing our stories, one conversation led to another and we began speaking of our devotion to Brigid. I believe Brigid brought us together and gave us the spark of inspiration we needed for Brigid’s Light.
We worked together, since we live in different time zones, we spent a lot of time on zoom! We wrote together, we edited together, and as the submissions came in, we rejoiced together. I will tell you that Cairelle is the tech person. Without that I would have struggled greatly. She walked me through some of the IT stuff with great patience.

7. There are loads of prayers, essays, and more in “Brigid’s Light.” Do you have a few personal favorites?

Cairelle Crow: Ohhh, this is hard! I love them all so much! Some that come to mind right in this moment are the poem by NiDara, Laura’s essay about her family’s quilting tradition, and Raven Morgaine’s beautiful portrayal of Maman Brijit. I also love Maria Jones’ essay about Brigid and astrology.

Laura Louella: It is so hard to choose a favorite. The one that made me cry is the submission from Bernadette Montana entitled My Personal Relationship with Brid. The one that reminded me that Brigid is always with us, by Tara Anura, Brigid of the Ozarks gave me a sense of knowing Brigid walks with us through great challenges. Love and Honey Baked Apples by Cairelle, I can feel the love in her grandma’s kitchen. Also, Jenne Micale’s, A Prayer to Brighid in Times of Violence, so profound and right now! I cannot choose one because everyone, all of the submissions shine a beautiful light on my beloved Brigid.

8. What do you think are some of the most basic ways to honor Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: The number one most basic way that I honor Brigid is to be of service to others, in whatever way is possible. Even offering a smile to another person on the street can be uplifting. Little things really matter! Other ways are keeping a flame, tending an altar that honors her, cooking a meal for loved ones. The possibilities are near-endless. People will know best what resonates within themselves.

Laura Louella: Watching the sun rise, sitting by a river or stream, lighting a candle and saying a prayer, tending my altar where I place my sacred items honoring her, and caring for others.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

Cairelle Crow: We are currently writing a book, we are planning retreats to Ireland and Glastonbury in 2023, and we continue to work on expanding our Elements of Philanthropy and Threads of Connection projects. Details about all of this can be found on our website, www.sanctuaryofbrigid.com.

Laura Louella: So much!! We are currently writing a book proposal that we are very excited about. We are planning on taking a group of women on a retreat to Ireland and Glastonbury, details are on www.sanctuaryofbrigid.com , where people that are interested can get on a list to be contacted about details. Also, on our website there is a page called Elements of Philanthropy where we encourage acts of service to honor Brigid.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Cairelle Crow: Do you have a matroness goddess? If so, who?

Not a particular individual goddess. I worship the divine feminine in many aspects. My altar pays homage to Quan Yin, Kali, Santa Muerte, Medusa, and Pandora.

Laura Louella: How do you see Brigid; do you have a story or recipe or poem that honors her?

I suspect many will find it surprising that I’ve never devoted much time to Brigid. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to read “Brigid’s Light.”

About Cairelle Crow:
Cairelle Crow has walked a goddess path for more than thirty years, exploring, learning, and growing. She is a priestess, genealogist, wanderess of wild and holy places, and co-foundress of the Sanctuary of Brigid and its flame-keeping circle, Sisters of the Flame. She lectures locally, nationally, and internationally on the blending of genealogy with magic and is dedicated to connecting magical people to their ancestral truths. When she’s not roaming the world in search of grandmothers, quirky art, and stone circles, Cairelle is home in New Orleans, where she lives joyfully, loves intensely, and laughs frequently with beloved family and friends. You can find her online at www.cairellecrow.com.

About Laura Louella:
Laura Louella is a priestess, certified Pilates instructor committed to teaching the strength that lies within, and the owner of Goddess Pilates, where she blends the art of sacred movement with the beauty of the goddess. She is also the co-foundress of the Sanctuary of Brigid and its flame-keeping circle, Sisters of the Flame. Many days, you can find her tending her garden, taking long walks through the forest, sitting by the river, or creating a quilt on her 1936 Featherweight Singer sewing machine. Laura lives in the Cascade Mountains of northern California.

You can learn more here.

Guess what? I accidentally received two copies of “Brigid’s Light”. You know what that means? GIVEAWAY! As usual, we’re using Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open to United States residents 18 years of age and old. Giveaway ends Monday 03/28/2022 at 11:59pm eastern.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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10 Questions with Heather Greene

Today we’re talking with editor, author, and journalist Heather Greene about her latest book, “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.”

1. Your latest book is “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.” I guess the most obvious question here is, why explore this particular facet of history?

Stories of witches and witchcraft permeate so much of our culture across time and space. It is a fascination that is made of both adoration and fear, it would seem. In this study, I examined how American pop culture, specifically Hollywood and television, told these age-old stories and defined the character of the witch.

2. Your book discusses a dizzying volume of movies and television shows. Do you have any idea how much time you spent watching movies as research?

I could do some math based on the average length of shows and movies, but no, I do not have a number. In fact, in some cases, I watched the films or shows multiple times for analysis, and I also watched a good number of films not listed or mentioned. So basically, the answer is “a whole lot.”

3. How has the role of women in American culture been reflected by the role of the witch in film?

This is actually one of the main threads in the book. In short, witchcraft is more often than not an allegory for a woman’s or girl’s power. Therefore, the witch character reflects mainstream society’s relationship with that power at any given point in time. When her innate power is feared as in mid-century, the witch is an example of what not to be. When it’s celebrated as in the 1990s, witchcraft is a symbol of feminist expression or so called ‘girl power’. This is just a taste of a complex social history.

4. Overall, how has the witch in cinema evolved?

Again, this is the main thrust of the book itself. A quick answer: the witch began as a copy of stories and lore that had come before and expanded over time with a changing society. Her stories became more involved, more focused on her as a central character, and more nuanced in the definition of magic itself. The witch evolved into a uniquely Hollywood creation and a true reflection of American society’s negotiation of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, and power.

5. Has the portrayal of men as witches been a part of your research?

Yes. While women make up most of Hollywood’s witches, there are some standout male figures, and that needs to be discussed as well. Given that witches have long been associated with women within Western society in general, it is important to examine male representations and the roles that they play. There is a distinct difference and I discuss that point in the book.

6. Do you remember the first witch you saw in American film or television?

I would guess it would be Glinda and The Wicked Witch of the West. I loved The Wizard of Oz. However, it may have been Sabrina the Teenage Witch in her cartoon form or a Disney animated witch.

7. Who’s your favorite fictional witch?

The Wicked Witch of the West, although I’m partial to Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel and Disney’s Maleficent.

8. Now that you’re done with this book, what are you watching on television?

I’ve been watching some wonderful British films that have absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft. British filmmakers have a wonderful way of telling compelling slice of life stories. The Beautiful Fantastic is one example. However, I did just start watching The Wheel of Time, which is in fact a great addition to the story of the witch on screen.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

As an acquisition’s editor at Llewellyn, I’m currently spending most of my time working with other authors on their books, which is something that I deeply enjoy. Helping authors go from idea to book-in-hand is fantastic. We like to call ourselves “book midwives.” I do post the books that I work on publicly in my photo library on Facebook. It is called My Llewellyn Book Shelf. https://www.facebook.com/heather.greene.165

I am also a religion journalist, covering predominantly witchcraft and pagan related stories. Readers can follow my work through my Twitter account @miraselena01.

For all my antics in one place, www.heathergreene.net.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one questions.

What is your favorite witch movie and why?

That is a really tough question. When I was young, I went through a pretty hardcore “Bell, Book, and Candle” phase. Then I had the prerequisite “The Craft” love affair. My last witch movie obsession was “Practical Magic”, and I think that may be my favorite. It’s a mature take on magic and witchcraft, with a fantastic cast (Stockard Channing for life yo!), and a Stevie Nicks heavy soundtrack.

About Heather Greene:
Heather Greene is an editor, author, and journalist living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently an acquisitions editor with Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd and a freelance religion journalist. She has a BA from Wesleyan University and an MA from Emory University both in Film Studies. Her work can be found at Religion News Service, Religion Unplugged, The Washington Post, Circle Magazine, and The Wild Hunt. Her book “Lights Camera Witchcraft,” tracing witches in American film and television, was released October 2021. She is a member of Covenant of the Goddess, Religion Newswriters Association, and Circle Sanctuary.

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10 Questions with Brandon Weston

Today we’re speaking with Brandon Weston, owner of Ozark Healing Traditions and author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing”.

1. How did you first become interested in the folk magic of the Ozarks?

My interest goes back to childhood. I’m from a multi-generational Ozark family, so I grew up with a lot of traditions, practices, and home remedies that I never thought were a part of some bigger culture. I just thought it was my weird family! For instance, I had a great uncle on my dad’s side who was a wart charmer, specifically a wart buyer. If you had a wart, you’d go see Uncle Bill and he’d pull out a penny or dime and say, “I’ll buy ‘em off you.” And you always knew to take the money and your warts would disappear overnight.

Things like that, and I have so many more examples, were just day-to-day life in the Ozarks. I only ever realized that I myself was a part of an actual culture when I was in college and I found Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore where he discusses all of the stories and traditions I’d grown up with. That was really the starting point for me. A sort of wake up call to my own heritage. After that I wanted to know the state of the Ozarks today. Were these practices still alive? Were there still witches and healers out in the hills? So, I started collecting stories from family first then moved outward into other families and communities across the Ozark region, from Arkansas up and through Missouri.

I didn’t start off as a practitioner at first, that came later. I wanted to be a folklorist like Vance Randolph. But then I met an old healer who kicked me in the rear and said, “You know you’re a part of this story too, right?” Up until that point I’d never considered myself a cultural representative; I was still in the old mindset of a stranger looking in and observing a culture without participating in it. So, I scrapped my work, stopped recording stories, and started actually listening and learning from these amazing keepers of so much power and wisdom. From there it all grew into the path I’m walking currently.

2. What made you decide to write your book “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers & Healing?”

It was really a desire to update the story. Nothing has been written about Ozark healing and magical practices from an actual practitioner. And I want to reiterate that because folks don’t often believe me. The only thing that even mentions more secretive practices is Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore and that was first published under the title Ozark Superstitions in 1947. Randolph wasn’t a practitioner and didn’t approach Ozark folk beliefs in a very respectful way. He was notorious for making things up that might appeal to the reader as well as publishing material without the permission of healers. There’s still a taboo amongst many old timers about writing down charms and spells as they believe it will “kill” the charm.

Since Vance Randolph, there has been a lot written about the history of the Ozarks and even the cultural traditions of its people, but still nothing about healing and magic which are so often relegated to the “simple” beliefs of a superstitious people. I knew this wasn’t true. I knew there were complex systems of practice hidden beneath that “simple” surface. So, I wanted to write the book that I would have loved reading as a kid. I wanted to write a work that would not only revitalize my culture but validate people as Ozarkers. We’ve been under the shadow of the hillbilly stereotype for so long and I really just wanted to help people break away from that while also getting in touch with their own magical roots.

3. I’ve noticed a definite uptick in excellent books on magic from the American mountains (yours, “Backwoods Witchcraft” by Jake Richards, and “Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work” by Orion Foxwood, to name a few). What do you think has brought about an increased interest in this subject matter?

I know that personally, before I was ever a writer or practitioner, I was craving books to read about my own culture but there wasn’t anything out there apart from a few outdated publications. Growing up in this culture, I know the way the rest of the world has looked at us. I know how my grandparents and parents grew up, constantly trying to escape the hillbilly stereotype. Mountain people are sometimes just too nice to say anything when faced with such degrading experiences. Magic is one way for us to escape.

In the Ozarks, secrecy has always been an important part of the work. There’s a famous Ozark saying, “We always lie to strangers.” And it’s not because we’re trying to be rude or unfriendly, but it’s out of utmost respect for the traditions that we keep some things hidden. It used to be a lot more important as magic and healing practices meant survival out in the dangerous mountains. You also didn’t want to risk the conservative community around you thinking you were a witch. Nowadays things are a lot different and many people from mountain cultures are now seeing that a big part of our practice doesn’t need to be so secretive. We aren’t risking the same things as our ancestors were when we practice our magic openly.

Also, for me, I see my own culture dying every day with each passing old timer. I’m sure this is an experience shared by many others. For me, it’s important to share these stories now before it’s too late. Revitalizing the culture and making people proud of their mountain heritage actually helps save traditions because instead of running away from the “superstitions” of their families, people instead get interested in the old traditions and stories and start talking to those with the knowledge. So much has been lost by old timers passing away with no interested family or friends there to carry the torch into the future.

4. Personally, I loved the practical and pragmatic healing process that you provided a flow chart for in “Ozark Folk Magic”? Can you share it with my readers?

Traditionally, the healing process for Ozarkers began with observing the signs of physical illness. In some cases, no expert would be needed and home remedies that every family has would be enough to take care of most contagion. In rare occasions of serious injury or illness an expert would be called in. This was usually what the old timers called a “yarb doctor” or an herbalist. This could also include the granny woman who was traditionally considered a midwife but was also an all-encompassing healer figure for the community. Physical illness was diagnosed through physical means, usually observing the body, for example the color of the eyes or tongue as well as the pulse. Physical illness was treated with physical medicines derived from local plants, sometimes mixed with pharmaceutical compounds like tinctures and resins. Choosing a physical medicine was based on the humoral system as well as the system of hot/cold and wet/dry. A fever, for example, is considered hot/dry so the medicine used would aim at countering that condition and could include “yarbs” or healing plants like mountain mint, which has a cold/wet aspect. Physical illness might also include injuries like burns or cuts. In these cases there are specialized “blood stoppers” and “burn doctors” whose magical gift is focused solely on these areas. They might also be considered alongside a local herbalist as the first line of defense against illness and injury.

In most cases, physical cures would take care of physical illnesses. In cases of prolonged sickness, stronger medicines might be used. Illnesses that persist even at this point, or have strange symptoms that don’t match any know contagion, are suspected to be of a magical origin. At this point a magical expert would be called in to diagnose the real cause of the problem using magical means, usually various divination techniques. If the signs or “tokens” point to a magical cause, then magical cures are sought in the form of ritual, verbal charms, prayers, or creating talismans. Depending upon how serious the condition is, the more intense or involved the ritual might become.

To some extent this process is the same in the modern world. I always recommend folks see a doctor or therapist first before coming to me. I believe that the two sides of the healing process, the physical and spiritual can work together in balance. Many old timers no longer make such a separation between the physical and magical illnesses/cures. For example, one praying granny I met whose sole business was praying over and blessing prescription medications that locals would bring to her. She believed in the power of modern medicine but also knew her gift could make the medicines more effective.

5. I was surprised to learn about how diverse the types of “doctors” are and methods they use. Can you share a brief overview of them and their differences?

These doctors are considered a part of the “old Ozarks” or more traditional culture. You rarely hear these terms used today outside of tall tales around the campfire. Most people call simply call themselves “healers” or even “witches” today. You also on occasion hear someone saying they can “doctor” for illnesses, but this runs the risk of encounters with the law as practicing medicine without a license is still illegal across the region. Many people are much more careful about how they refer to their practice and use specific language to avoid trouble.

Traditionally though, there were a number of Ozark “doctors” or healers. The yarb doctor, as I mentioned earlier, was an herbal expert and specialized in healing using local plants, fungi, and mineral compounds. They rarely incorporated any verbal charms or prayers into their work.

Then there’s the power doctor, who unlike the yarb doctor almost exclusively worked with verbal charms, prayers, ritual, and the creation of amulets and talismans. While they often did use herbal concoctions, it was almost always in a magical way rather than for the benefit of the contained plant chemical compounds.

An all-encompassing figure in the community was the granny woman who was a combination midwife, herbalist, and magical expert. Granny women have often been degraded in many of the folk accounts but their position was often of the utmost importance in the community, especially since there used to be a strict taboo against male healers working on women.

There were also certain experts or specialized healers who worked in curing very specific needs. These include the blood stopper, burn doctor, wart charmer, and the witch master or goomer doctor who specialized in removing hexes and curses derived specifically from a physical assailant in the form of a witch.

6. Do you find people are surprised by the role that Christianity and the Bible play in these magic/healing traditions?

I definitely do. A lot of people in the Ozarks are still a part of a much more conservative Christian background and they automatically view anything called “magic” with witchcraft, which has traditionally been associated with evil. That’s changing, of course, as more and more people are reclaiming the title of witch for themselves, myself included. Ozark healing traditions were never called magic internally up until Vance Randolph and other folklorists like him who brought technical terms from the outside and applied them to the culture. Some of the more conservative Ozarkers still refer to their practice as “spiritual healing,” “praying,” “trying,” and many other old terms that would have separated this work from that of the so-called witch. Ozark culture is a complicated subject, though, and even though there might appear to be this very strict, very Christian exterior at times, this was often a way for healers to safely practice and avoid being labeled as a witch. I think there’s sometimes the mistaken view that more traditional or conservative cultures are therefore more religious and that’s not the case with the Ozarks. Religion or religious culture was often just the outward appearance whereas underneath the practices and traditions were, and still are, as diverse as there are practitioners. So, you might have a healer who is outwardly more traditional or conservative in their culture but underneath that they are working with the fairies in their healing practice, or angels, or other entities that definitely don’t fit into the more religiously conservative culture.

7. You make a good point in “Ozark Folk Magic.” Although it stems from certain traditions that can be traced WAY back, these things still continue to evolve. What evolution have you witnessed, and do you have an idea what may be next?

The first major evolution with Ozark folk traditions came around the beginning of the 20th century when roads got better and towns started building up. This was when tourists from outside the Ozarks starting flocking to the region to get a view of a real-life hillbilly, up close and in person. This was also when the major Ozark folklorists began their work. This influx of interest from the outside created a sort of folk culture revival for people where storytellers and traditional musicians started performing for large audiences and actually making some money. The folk culture became much more outward facing and a lot of the subtle nuances were lost as life became about either appeasing or avoiding the tourists.

The next evolution came in the 60’s and 70’s with the back to the land movement and an influx of outsiders into the hills, many of which were from much larger urban areas, in particular California. These groups were already a part of the New Age movement and would have brought with them different religious and spiritual traditions like yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Wicca, and many others. This clash of cultures with the Ozark hillfolk has lasted up until today in many places, but underneath the surface, many traditional healers and magical practitioners incorporated this new culture into their own.

Currently, more and more people are getting interested specifically in what we might call Traditional Witchcraft, which today often encompasses not only folk magic practices but also an earth-based spiritual system as well as folk herbalism and practical healing methods. This is one of the reasons I see so many people taking on the title of witch; so much information is now contained in such a simple word. This is where I see the practice going. Embracing cultural heritage practices in the form of traditional magic and spirituality, while at the same time taking a critical view of problematic pieces of our own history.

8. Is there a place for lifelong residents of urban environments in this practice?

Of course. Pretty soon even us Ozarkers are going to be in the middle of a vast urban landscape as well. Traditions have to change and move with the times. But, I do think at the heart of Ozark practice is a deep connection to the land, however that might manifest for the individual. While I personally draw a lot of power and inspiration from being out in the woods away from all the modern stuff, towns and cities are a part of the Ozark landscape as well and there’s absolutely a place in this practice for those who draw more from the urban environment than the wilds.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers should be aware of?

Right now I’m working on my second book, which so release from Llewellyn next year. It’s going to be all the spells, recipes, and rituals I couldn’t squeeze into the first book. Basically, “Ozark Folk Magic” is the theory and the second book will be all the practice materials.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one questions.

Do you have any family or ancestral traditions that you’ve incorporated into your own practice?

Sadly no, and this uptick in folk magic that highlights family/ancestral traditions really drives it home. It makes me a sad panda.

About Brandon Weston:
Brandon Weston is a spiritual healer, medium, and writer living in the Arkansas Ozarks. He is author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing” and owner of Ozark Healing Traditions, a collective of articles, lectures, and workshops focusing on traditions of medicine, magic, and folklore from the Ozark Mountain region. As an active healer, his work with clients includes everything from spiritual cleanses to house blessings and all the weird and wonderful ailments in between. He comes from a long line of Ozark hillfolk and works hard to keep the traditions that he’s collected alive and true for generations to come.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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10 Questions with Michael William West

Author and filmmaker Michael William West wrote, “Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others”. Today we have some sex talk!

1. What made you decide to specifically write about individuals that are associated with sexual magic practices for your book, “Sex Magicians?”

There seems to have been a kind of passing of the flame from Randolph onwards, as far as pioneers of sex magic are concerned. Likely because practitioners are extremely few in number. So there was a natural draw to the most prominent individuals, even though certain others could have been included. I tended towards diverse people, from different backgrounds, with different political views, with different objectives.

2. Considering how sex can be a taboo subject, is it hard to learn about people who have practiced sex magic?

I don’t think sex is a taboo subject anymore. You’d have to live an extremely sheltered life to be able to continue in that fallacy. What is taboo, however, is spirituality. A lot of western people are uncomfortable with admitting they have metaphysical longings…throbbings, even. I think far more people are experimenting with sex than are with metaphysics and questions of the human spirit.

3. You live in Paris. Americans tend to view France as having a more progressive attitude towards sex. Do you find that to be the case?

That’s a very difficult question. The answer could be very longwinded, and still be unsatisfactory. They are extremely different cultures. I think Americans suffer from more psychosexual trauma than the French, on the whole. However, I think the French are surprisingly conventional when it comes to sexuality – there’s a well-established code, which seems quite liberated, but there’s not much deviance from it. Also, sadly, you are much more likely to be sexually assaulted in France than in the US, which points to some deep societal problems which might not be as apparent in the US. I think the United States is a more mystical place than France, which is a country obsessed with rationality and measure. You can measure the universe, but you cannot measure your desire to explore it – and I believe Americans are more willing to make those kinds of explorations, whether through practicing sex magic or otherwise. France does have its mystical traditions, however, and when you do encounter them, they are magnificent.

4. What can we learn from studying the lives and works of the people featured in your book?

Fundamentally, they are all adventurers. These are people who fixed their lives on a goal, whether rocketry, poetry, music or whatever, and then explored the fullest extent of the tools available to them, within themselves. This led them to revelatory experiences which improved the quality of their work and gave them one of the most satisfying types of life available – that of the adventurer, and of the informed risk taker. They were not afraid of life, that is what I think they all have in common, and there’s a lot to be said for approaching life without fear.

5. “Sex Magicians” explores the lives a diverse group of people, including Jack Parsons, Aleister Crowley, Maria de Naglowska, Genesis P-Orridge, and others. For being such a diverse group, do you find that they all have things in common?

Yes, they all strove to understand themselves, to position themselves in the universe, rather than just in their immediate surroundings. They found power in themselves to do exceptional things, they are all adventurers.

6. How were you first introduced to the idea of sex being a component of magic?

My first literal understanding of it was through reading the works of Aleister Crowley. But what he spoke of correlated to ideas and experiences I’d already had, but not yet understood.

7. When we say, “sex magic”, it’s not just heterosexual intercourse, is it?

No, that would be absurd, especially in a book featuring people like Genesis, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs. If people are looking for arbitrary moral restrictions on their bodily functions, they are welcome to browse the Koran or the Bible. There’s no need for definitions of hetero- or homosexual in sex magic, there is just sexual; all it requires is that it be fully consensual and within the bounds of the law.

8. If someone is already a magical practitioner, how would suggest they incorporate sex into their practice? (If this is a topic you think you can speak about.)

There are magical practitioners who feel they do not need to incorporate any sexual component into their practice and that is perfectly reasonable. Sexual magic is sometimes considered as being more useful to westerners than purely meditative magic – as we might call it – as our society does not easily permit a life of free contemplation for extended periods of time. Not many societies do, but until recently enough, such things were possible in places like India. Sex magic can be a kind of short cut. If someone is already interested in incorporating sex into their practice, then I would guess they had already felt drawn in that direction, and so they should just follow their intuitive guidance system. Reading the works of Peter J. Carroll would be an excellent basis of ideas, but in truth it’s about allowing yourself to go down whichever path you are being drawn down. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to exploring the inner self, or how sex can be used to do so – apart from the obvious ones I mentioned earlier.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?

My belief, which I state in the book, is that magical practice, like transcendental meditation, or anything else in the spiritual realm, is a means to an end, a way of improving what you do in life. My end is as a film maker, and I will be releasing a short film based on the experience of using a Dream Machine, as invented by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville – and popularized by William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain and others – in the next few months. More information will be on my Instagram page @michaelwilliamwest or my website michaelwilliamwest.com

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What’s the greatest adventure you’ve been on from the comfort of your own bed?

Dreaming. Seriously. I have vivid, intense dreams.

About Michael William West:
Michael William West is an author and filmmaker from Paris, France. He has been a student of the occult and practitioner of left-hand traditions for almost 20 years. He writes for A Void magazine and released the film, “9 Circles: Limbo”. He lives in Paris.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet