Aline DeWinter: Invocatory Theatre and the Babalon Project
Interview by Alison Rockbrand
This is Part 17 to a series of posts about my adventures during 2005, leading up to the performance of Paul Green’s play Babalon. The story is full of cloak and dagger, initiatory strangeness, chaos, and hysteria. It shows what can happen on the Magical path if one is not careful…
Directed by occultist, Alison Rockbrand, Babalon was performed on December 16, 2005, at the John Gielgud Theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to a sold out audience of London’s finest occultists and magicians. If you want to listen to it, click Radio QBSaul: Archives: Babalon. I played Marjorie Cameron/Babalon. I am called Angela Murrow because I had to hide my identity.
As part of her on going academic research into esoteric acting and performance/theatre at the Rose Bruford College, Alison Rockbrand interviewed me about my creative process. She was especially interested in my use of ritual to develop roles in acting and dance. Most actors at one time or another, study Method Acting developed by Constantin Stanislavsky in the late 19th century. I recently learned that he made great use of esoteric methods in training actors how to embody their roles. I wonder how far he originally took them in terms of Otherworld contacts….
Aline DeWinter is an American medium, tarot reader, witch, writer and performer whose work has crossed from the Seattle Shakespeare Company,to the dance performances of the Companions of Musavir, to working on esoteric theatre projects in London, England where she lived for nine years. She is the writer of a detailed and extensive blog on what she calls ‘the magical path’; included in this blog is an account of her experiences while working on the esoteric play by Paul Green, Babalon, of which I myself was the director. I spoke to her on her experiences as an individual performer in the realms of esoteric theatre and dance.
Interview with Aline de Winter
AR: You describe yourself as a witch and as a performer, can you give me some idea as to how you interpret these terms and how they relate to each other?
AD: Well, I think I have always been what I would call a witch. When I first started working with the Seattle Shakespeare Company in the 1980′s I started to feel that there were deeper levels to Shakespeare that no one was really investigating. I tried to bring my magical awareness into my performances.
AR: What do you mean by ‘magical awareness’.
AD: At the time I was doing a lot of Kabbalistic magic, you know from the Jewish Kabbala. I was getting up at five in the morning to do these meditations which were based on that system, trying to increase my esoteric knowledge. But I was always a natural witch, I always just somehow knew how to do magic. It was like what they say about shamans, I was just called to the path I am on by the spirits themselves. I have heard the same sort of thing from Native Indian shamans with whom I have had a lot of experiences. Basically I knew how to tap into other dimensional reality and bring stuff through, though my body. I would move my mind through a door. But at the time of my work with Shakespeare and particularly with the part of Lady Macbeth, I was just trying to integrate my knowledge with what I felt were the deeper levels in that play.
AR: How did you accomplish this integration?
AD. One example is the scene where Lady Macbeth conjures of all of these dark spirits or demons in order to make herself stronger. In the performance, we thought of that scene as an actual magical ritual. We drew a circle, and conjured the directions, and treated the scene very much as you would in ceremonial magic. We thought of the scene as an actual magical ritual though we were quite careful not to fully conjure the dark energies that Lady Macbeth was conjuring, or at least I did not conjure them into myself as she was because that would have been too chaotic. But we still treated it as though I were real, as though the spirits were being spoken to during the performance. We also banished them everyday after the rehearsals and performances; we were careful to cleanse to space magically after every performance.
AR: Can you tell me something about your preparation for the performance of that role?
AD. Well as I said I was doing all this Kabbala, and that helped me to get to some of those deeper levels. But the way I always prepare for such roles is through ritual and through the use of images. I would find the right image of the magical levels within the character I wanted to use during the scene and then I would take those images into my own body, or my own awareness. I finally found that it was easier to do this with dance because then I can just totally let go in performance and let the character or the spirit I am trying to work with completely take over, like a kind of shamanic possession.
AR: You said you also used ritual?
AD: Yes, when I practice at home I always begin the practice by drawing the circle and calling in to it the energies I need for the performance. Its a magical ritual that I repeat every time I rehearse because I am trying to do magic on the stage and it takes a lot of practice of that ritualistic kind to accomplish that. The ritual might vary, but its a ritual the same as in ceremonial magic where the circle is drawn before the spirits can enter. It was the same when I started working in dance.
AR: Can you elaborate about your work in dance?
AD: I started to work with the dance company, Companions of Musavir, performing sacred dances. I was initiated into the Sufi Order in Paris in 1982. In those days when I was dancing an doing a lot of theatre my whole desire was to use theatre as a magical vehicle. There were very few people, if any, who had the same idea as me- only Elizabeth Dickinson, the director of the Companions of Musavir - had this as the real reason behind the dance company. I was one of two dancers who got that. I felt I could do more of what I wanted with them. I started doing my own choreographies which sprang out of my desire to unite with a Goddess or God- as Circe, Melusine, Salome, Ariadne and various others.
Circe by Waterhouse
AR: What was your process in preparing for that kind of role?
AD: When I was working on Circe, once the choreography was set, I would move my consciousness into what I have to call ‘the Circe current’. I would try to connect my consciousness with that of the Goddess, which feels more like a specific current of consciousness rather then the mind of a character. Its something from a different reality. Then I would often find new ways to move in the choreography and a lot of it would change based on my connection. I would do this over and over again, as a ritualistic, magical and spiritual practice as a preparation for performance.
AR: How was the performance different from the rehearsals?
AD: In the rehearsal phase I would just be contacting it myself, letting the Circe current show me the dance and letting in use me to find the right choreography. In performance, I would mediate on stage between the Goddess Circe and the audience. I would try to bring something magical through to the audience. However, you never know if its going to work. You can’t control the spirit. Its a willing co-operation. If it does not want to manifest in a certain performance then there is nothing you can do. You have to work with it and develop a relationship with it, so that is why there is so much ritual practice involved- it makes the connection stronger.
AR: How do you develop this connection?
AD. I always invoke, I develop in magical circles. I make a circle, I invoke the spirit and then I let it take over me but without letting go of my critical side so that I can work. It develops through the ritual practice, but in that practice I am making my self very open emotionally. I am trying to release my conscious mind and go into the subconscious, which opens you up emotionally, and then you can connect to the spirit through a strong emotion. In magic we often use sygils and symbols to get in touch with the subconscious mind and I use those to connect the spirits as well. I use the heart chakra combined with the third eye, which then makes you telepathic with spirits that are good for you,that have a higher energy level. From the solar plexus into the lower chakra levels you get demons who feed off your sexual energies, which can be very debilitating.
AR: What is there to be gained from this kind of connection to a spirit?
AD: Every time I perform in this way and get into the body of a spirit, or mediate for a spirit to an audience, it alters me in ways I sometimes do not know about until much later. I have gotten many gifts from this kind of practice, mainly new abilities or new insights into myself or the world. These are magical gifts which are given from the spirit who has a different reality to me, and when I communicated with it on this level, something of the spirit always stays with me, forever. And it can alter reality as I know it as well. Things change, strange things happen, my life changes. It could be a dangerous practice and many people on the occult path go insane from conjuring demons. If you conjure positive entities, then good things will follow, but often when you deal in Black Magic, then bad things tend to happen and people loose themselves. With the Babalon project, I felt that the energy of Babalon was very fiery and chaotic and many bizarre things happened during the rehearsal process in London. But I gained a lot from Babalon, especially lots of Kundalini energy rising up my spine.
AR: Can you tell me more about your preparation for Babalon?
AD: I have written in my blog about the experiences with Babalon by Paul Green and with the spirit of Babalon because it was something that altered my life in many ways and in which I saw how the use of certain energies and types of magic can have major effects in reality. In preparation it was very magical because the play itself is alive- it contains some of the Enochian keys of John Dee and Edward Kelley which were used by the occultist Jack Parsons to complete what he called “ The Babalon Working”, a magical rite to call the energies of the spirit of Babalon into the world at large. Those energies were not the kind I was used to dealing with. They were darker, more fiery. In rehearsal we sang the Enochian keys and it would get very weird. There was definitely something happening when we sang the keys in rehearsals. Since all the actors were occultists and magicians, it would seem that we could not help but actually perform aspects of the Babalon Working whenever we performed those scenes in the play.
AR: Did this differ from your private practice?
AD: In my private practice I would draw the circle, call the directions as is done in most Wiccan and ceremonial magical rituals, then I would use the Babalon sygil which Aleister Crowley created to try to connect to the ‘Babalon current’ . I would work to bring through the Babalon energy. What it felt like was a very disruptive energy, like the earth was falling from underneath me. As always I experienced it as a dimensional shift. Then Babalon would appear to me. Babalon shows up as a red fiery figure covered with jewels. Then I would walk into that figure. I would just move my body into the body of this spirit Babalon and I would focus on what that felt like, and try to remember the feeling of that for the rehearsals with the rest of the cast.
AR: Was the same thing happening in performance?
AD: No. In performance I felt as though Babalon was talking directly through me to the audience. There were moments in the performance when I felt as though the energy was really being manifested directly to them. My performance was a magical act to conjure Babalon and I think she was definitely there and I think the audience could feel that. But each time one of these spirits manifests though a medium, it will take on aspects of that person as well. So my invocation of it would be different from another actors.
AR: You said you experienced magical phenomena during the rehearsals for Babalon. Can you elaborate?
AD: The play had a magical effect way beyond just the rehearsal room. Not only on myself but in the real world as well. There is one incident which happened during the rehearsals. It was towards the end of the rehearsal process and nearing the performance. I had a problem with my flat and so I had to go and stay with a friend of mine near Hampstead Heath. At one point she told me to find someplace else to stay because another friend of hers was coming from Germany for her job in Hemel Hempstead. The German friend’s return home was delayed all of a sudden when the factory she was working at blew up. It turned out that the factory was a producer of airplane fuel. It’s very bizarre because Jack Parsons, the protagonist of Babalon, was, in real life, one of the inventors of rocket and air plane fuel. He was killed when he dropped a canister of rocket fuel and it exploded. His death is also the climax of the play. I find it incredible that this should have happened so close to where Babalon was being performed and only a few days before the performance, and that I who was playing Babalon, was directly connected to someone who worked there. It’s horrible though, really.
The Babalon Working as it was performed by Jack Parsons was supposed to bring the energy of the ‘Babalon Current’ into the world at large, to affect the outside world and to have a major effect on humanity. Many people have wondered what was actually accomplished by it though, as Parsons was killed in an explosion not long after. I think we awoke something in our rehearsals that had a similar effect. We performed a version of the Parsons Babalon Working and a factory close to us that stored air plane fuel blew up. That is what I mean about real effects. This type of esoteric theatre effects things.
(Aside by me: This why we say “Don’t do this at home….” Luckily no one was hurt.)
AR: What effects did the experience have on you personally?
AD: Its always like a kind of initiation because something in me changes and a whole new side of my personality can develop. The experience with Babalon brought through something that was not there before. Initiation is about creating a holistic self from these currents, dimensions, or conciousnesses, and letting them add to by body and to my knowledge. I have more energy then I do this. Also, the spirit becomes a muse for me, and though it new connection are born and I gain in gnosis. Working with Babalon I contacted things I had not contacted before, but now I always can again. I can always call that spirit or energy back. I still feel very connected to it today. It affects objective reality.
AR: Do you think this kind of experience is possible though other theatrical means? Do you need to be an esoteric actor to experience this or can it happen in other theatres, such as those in which use shamanic techniques ?
AD: I have done a lot of work with shamans and I have seen many of their rituals on Native American reservations in America. You cannot take the techniques of shamanism away from the shamans and expect to get the same results. Those techniques are tied to the land, to specific trees, or lakes or other natural elements, and to a specific tribe. I have seen shamans perform with feathers that were 1000 years old passed down a family line- a lot of the magic is in those feathers. Shamans are healers and they work for the whole community. There may be some similar techniques in esoteric acting, but its not really shamanism the way it is used traditionally. Our practice of Esoteric theatre is urban, it travels with us, its not tied to a place or a people. Its like a kind of urban shamanism. But these shamans like esoteric actors are trained to be able to see into other dimensions and to bring things back. I do not think that is what is happening in other theatres because the people involved are not trained in that way, the audience in not being changed in the same way because the actors are not calling in other dimensions of reality. They are exploring this reality, but we are going somewhere beyond there.
And of course, if you want to listen to podcasts of our December 16, 2005 performance of Babalon, the links are just below.
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