I came of age in the 1970s. Those were the early days of the feminist movement. I always loved femininity, so the idea of becoming a miniature – (and the was the word they used) man had no appeal foe me. I was always a rebel and wanted to be seen as a realm person, having equality with men, but I did not want to be one. I was also always very drawn to the moon. I was a natural clairvoyant and telepath, and artist and visionary. Of curse back then there was not really any language for those things, especially in traditional New England. I had to come to the west coast to find put that I “wasn’t really from here.” and that I ” shouldn’t try to fit in.”
In the 1980s the Women’s Spirituality Movement emerged. I have since learned that most “movements” are concocted by socila engineers to promote their hidden agendas and that indeed the feminist movement was a CIA psy-op designed to get women into the workplace so they could be taxed. But since I had to deal with this movement, spirituality resonated with me much more that any corporate ambition. I was working class so that was all Greek to me.
The books were pretty good too. The Jungian things, books like Moon Moon by Anne Kent Rush produced in those hand made 1970;s hippy style paperbacks, books like Margaret Murray’s God of the Witches, and especially Dione Fortune’s Sea Priestesss. I had also studied Surrealism in art school and read about the girl friend of one of the famous painters or poets…hmmm. I think Paul Eluard, describing his girlfriend as mysterious, in the garden at night, a witch. These works resonated with me and my natural affinity to nature.
I grew up in nature. My playground was the woods, exploring the woods, discovering wildlife, reading fairy tales, dressing in my mother;s cats off clothes, pretending to be otherworldly among the trees, at the woodland lake, in the meadow with the ancient stone walls. Woman as sibyl, as shamaness, as fairy take witch had a great appeal for me. I was not alone in this. We all grew up much closer to nature than people do now despite their “green movement” which isn’t really green but corporate. The forest was my refuge and my healer, a place of magic.
As a forest person, I’d always been naturally attracted to Druidry. The White Goddess by Robert Graves sealed that resonance for me.
Over the last 20 years a very dark strain has entered in. Via heavy metal music, horror films, books. Satanism has replaced the lovey celebratory nature of the seasonal rituals and “witchcraft” seems to be deteriorating into the evil that our Medieval ancestors feared. Perhaps even then the art of the wise woman, the healer , the shaman, the cunning man deteriorated into evil, just as the pagan religions fell into orgies of human sacrifice and war.
This development has been extremely distressing to me. I do not want to be associated with this darkness. When I played Cameron / Babalon in Babalon in London, I did it as a creative project ( I had been an actress at one time). I had no idea who jack Parsons and Marjorie Cameron people were. Playing the Babalon roletwas fun, but as I hate war, I was disturbed at the Jack Parson’s excitement invoking “Force and Fire, my friend, Force and Fire” as the most desired reality in the Aeon of Horus. I never liked Crowley and still don’t. I am not a destroyer, but a preserver and creator. I feel I’ve spent my life watching everything I love being destroyed.
Now, I feel the old mythopoetic path of witchery is being destroyed. This probably has more to do with why I don’t write to this blog any more than anything else. These ideas work great in fiction, so that is where I will explore these themes. In fiction light and dark can dance without raining bombs on innocent people in sacrifice to some awful un-God. The theme of human sacrifice haunts us all because it is in our ancestral memories, but frankly it is the devil in the psyche that Christ sought to redeem so that it could end forever. The whole thrust of Christianity is to raise consciousness to a high vibrational level, thereby starving the dark lords and escaping their clutches. This is why they hate Christ. I never hated Christ. In fact, before I lived in London, my witchcraft was solidly aligned with the Virgin Mary.
Anyway this is my little rant. I wish for all my readers who are drawn to Malifecium that you see the error of your vision, that is it is a form of demonic brain washing manufactured to bring you down to the lowest common denominator. It backfires. It will not feed you.
The Wicca religion is filled with beauty, but one must always know that the God it celebrates is the Devil. It doesn’t have to be, but it seemd to be going more and more in that direction. This is the Being that is being uploaded into the ethers now. Not a nature God, or joyful, fertilizing spirit, but something evil.
Maxine Sanders even writes about it in the opening to her autobiography, Firechild describing a Druid ritual at Stonehenge in 1968:
“The ceremony went on until the killing of the old king when, after a few moments of dramatic knife waving it became apparent that the play acting was taking a sinister turn. Alex ( Sanders) was suffering sincere but blunt jabs that were trying to penetrate the beautiful, luckily thick, robes he was wearing; there was terror in his eyes and panic in his voice. The normally sedate priests and priestesses were screaming for the lifeblood of the old Oak King, the king of the witches, my husband…. This was witchcraft!”
So it was spelled out even then. I am curious about what you think.
Willow, Saille, Willow,
Oh silver drenched tree!
Long leaves fall on water
Rippling in moonlight
Ladies who bend
On the threshold of February.
Saille ( Sahl-yeh)
Moonlight on willow is a mysterious sight, especially on the threshold between Winter and Spring when the bare trunks cast crooked shadows over the frosted grass like spirits coming through the mists of the Otherworld. The voices of the Faeries can be heard in the rustling of the willow branches, breathing, into the ear of the poet, their songs.
The willow is a remarkably feminine tree. It thrives near rives and streams, lakes and ponds, it shimmers in the moonlight, and provides shelter under its umbrella of graceful branches. Uniquely beautiful and mysterious, the willow invites entry into another world within the compass of its branches. If you have ever been inside a large weeping willow then you know how instantly the outside world ceases to exist as silence and diffused light encompass you. It is this quality of the willow that makes it one of the first trees of Faery.
Pagans have always associated the willow with the Triple Goddess of the Moon. Sacred to Hekate, Goddess of the Dark Moon, the willow stands as the gateway to the Realm of Shades or Death. The weeping of the willow mirrors the grief of those left behind, as was the Greek poet Orpheus who, armed with willow branches, entered Hades and returned, not alas with his beloved wife, Euridyce, but with the gift of poetry.
Tree of Poetry
As the “witch’s tree” tree of poetry, transformation and healing, willow is connected with the Bright Brighid whose Day of Initiation is February 2, Candlemas, a Festival of Lights. In the Pagan mind, death is also an initiation, a transformation not to be feared any more than the peace found under the branches of the willow tree under the full moon when one feels transported to a strange and beautiful place.
The willow tree reflected in the waters brings moon magic to earth, creating a numinous, visually confusing, liminal effect. This may be why it the tree of romantic love, for what can be more difficult to interpret than the varying faces of love in the throes of deep attachment? Valentine’s day is also in February, suggesting that Love is the fulfillment of the Light celebrated at Candlemas.
In some traditions, willow is the thirteenth tree. This may fit it in at the leap year, the liminal 29 day of February, that was the modern concession to the natural rhythmic sequence of the lunar year.
Throw your shoe up high
into the branches of a willow tree;
If he branches catch and hold your shoe,
You soon will married be.
The Witch’s Tree
The magical properties of willow are as numerous as its medicines. Faery magics of enchantment, wishing, romance, and divination under the moon are enhanced by the presence of willow. Its powers are beneficial, protective, nurturing, inspirational, joyful, and peaceful. This throws a provocative light on its role as tree of mourning, for how can death be evil when couched among so many life giving powers? Rather, willow traditionally inspires courage, and helps one overcome the fear of death. Willow is flexible, fluid, resilient, and strong. It focuses intuition, induces trance states, attracts Faeries and other spirits. It eases transitions, especially into the unknown.
Because of the many medicines dispensed by the willow, it was much sought after by Cunning people for healing purposes. As a feminine tree connected to the moon, willow bark provides pain relief for menstrual cramps and child bearing. The gemstone for willow is the blood-red carbuncle. This is another image that evokes women’s mysteries of bleeding and fertility. Burning willow lends energy to healing magic.
Willow wands are excellent for moon magic, and its wood is good for making magical harps, accompaniment for for poets for ancient times.
Divination by Willow:
Willow increases psychic vision into the watery Otherworld Realms under the waves. Dreams, and premonitions are stirred by willow’s influence on the deep subconscious mind. Just being near a willow tree can induce trance states in which prophetic oracles can be mediated from Faery into our reality. Divination by smoke from a willow fire while passing a willow wand through it to disturb its shapings, is a powerful divination technique for those with the second sight. Scrying into water where willow is reflected on nights of the full moon, is venerable tradition.
Awakening of dormant powers and emotions, pay attention to dreams. Love is n the way. Positive transformation from one way of life to another, The need to be flexible an adaptable. Relief from painful situations. Encounters with Faerie, or the deceased.
After November 1st, we enter the darkest time of year. A bright branch of Rowan is like a torch in the night and at the heart of each flame-colored berry is the five-pointed star of protection. Little wonder a Rowan wands were used to ward off enchantments.
The Faery gateway of the Green and Burning Trees, suggests the green and burning quality of Rowan.
Rowan berry, rowan berry
Ends in a yellow star.
A wand of rowan above our beds
Is an anchor in dark December dreams…
Luis ( loush)
The lovely Rowan is the fire in the night. With its bright orange berries, it lights up the perpetual twilight of winter with a touch of brilliant warmth much like the hearth fires our ancestors gathered around as they hunkered down for long hours indoors. For most of their waking hours, the fire and the candles were the only sources of light. Small wonder that a tree bearing the color of flames would be perceived as protective.
There was a time when fire was so scarce that it was kept very safe and was never allowed to go out. Our very early ancestors did not know how to create fire; they knew it as a gift from the Gods. Fire was carried in lamps and delivered from lamp to lamp. Woe to the person who let the fire go out!
In the Book of Balymote, “Luis is the delight of eye that is Luisu”, or the lambent color of flame. In modern Irish Luise indicates a red glare with added luster or sheen. As fire keeps off predatory animals and freezing cold, it also has the power to ward of demons, faeries, and ghosts. To that end, rowan is planted in graveyards to keep the dead from rising. The wood of the Rowan was used by the Druids on funeral pyres for it had power over death and rebirth.
The association of Rowan with fire is one reason it is ascribed to Candlemas and the Goddess of the eternal flame, Brighid. The poetry of this may be why the Ogham was made to correspond to the Julian calender of a January 1st New Year. But the symbolism of the Rowan also suits the festival of Winter Solstice. The use of Rowan as a protective amulet toward off the darkness of December, to survive for the time when the light begins to return, is a strong point in favor of Rowan belonging to December.
The magic of Rowan guards us against the forces of chaos and destruction, strongly linked in the minds of our ancestors with darkness and the creatures that prowl unseen and hungry at the doors and windows. Rowan promises rebirth with the increasing warmth and light that comes after the Winter Solstice.
Rowan was said in ancient times to have been guarded by dragons.
Rowan Tree and Red Thread,
Gar the Witches tyne their speed.
Rowan tree and red thread slow down wicked witches, for it has the power to bind to malevolent forces. Magic wands made of Rowan branches are excellent for this purpose. In celtic countries, spindles and spinning wheels were made of Rowan.
Rowan, also known as Mountain Ash, is one of the trees of the sacred Faery groves of oak, ash, and thorn. Scottish Faeries are known to hold celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees.
It is so sacred to the Scots that the old law does not allow use of any part of the tree except for sacred purposes.
Another reason for the Rowan’s protective influence, and its magical nature, can by found by examining the berries themselves, for at the end of each one is a tiny five-pointed star, or pentagram.
It is the deepest dark of winter. You sit close to the fire to stay warm. The fire sets you dreaming so that you see the flames part and desire to walk between them. In you minds eyes, they flames become two Rowan trees. Pass between the trees, bright with red berries, into the snowy landscape on the other side, bringing with you the fire of Luis. Let it illuminate your path.
A necklace of Rowan berries is the Red Thread that confers protection from evil spells.
Divination by Rowan: You need protection and nourishing through this time. Creativity, vision art, poetry and storytelling are inspired as you slow down and focus inwards with the flame of passionate inspiration to guide you. Health and strength improve.
Magic can be done by placing Rowan twigs above the doors and windows for protection. Place Rowan twigs in the shape of a cross and bind with red thread to be carried as a protective amulet.
Another name for Rowan is Witch Tree or Wicken Tree and can be used for divining precious metals in the way hazel is sued to find water. Rowan can be used to increase psychic powers, and is a fine ingredient in spells for healing, success, safety, and is used to make excellent magic wands.
Animals: unicorn, bear
Color: flame red
Uses: magical protection
According to the Irish Bards of old, the Ogham was received by a great poet, mac Elatha mac Delbeath from the God Ogma Grian-ainech or Ogma Sun-Face, a mercurial God of language and poetry. It was instantly conceived as a magical tool. One only has to cast the mind back to the times when uttering spells and charms was enough to change reality at will, or to recall the opening of the Bible, “In the beginning was the WORD”, in order to grasp the power of letters and language in the old world before books usurped the power of communication and turned language into a standard collection of letters printed on pieces of parchment. Of course every witch knows that books themselves in those times were believed to be magical, and for some of us, they still are.
The first letter written was the Ogham for Birch, Beth, carved seven times on the birch bark paper by Ogma for the God Lugh, as an oracle to warn him that his wife would be carried away.
Blogger, Kevin Jones, at: www.taliere.tripod.com, has these interesting things to say about the word Ogham:
Ogham is named after Ogma. However, in Greek ogmos means a line, row or
furrow, which is quite an apt description of Ogham… In Scots Gaelic the word
for Ogham, oidheam, means ‘a notion of anything, an idea, an inference, hint’.
This is an accurate description of the Ogham. The cognate word in Latin,
agmen, means both ‘boatmen’s oars’ and ‘speech’, which is very apt! There is
also the rather obscure word ogygia which is best translated as primeval or
‘before time’. This may or may not be related but if it is, it is apt since the
Ogham does concern primeval things.
Primeval…yes! What could be more primeval than the trees and the sky and
the birds and the earth?
Deer nibbling the leaves of the Ash Tree
that is also like a door into the Otherworld.
Two trees on either side of a path can be perceived as gateways
into the Otherworld. Therefore you must pass between two birches on the Eve
of Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to begin your journey around the Wheel of the
Year through the grove of sacred trees.
As pretty as the correspondences are, I feel the current popular trend of creating Celtic Tree calenders with Birch on the threshold of January is wrong. The Ogham is an ancient Celtic system. The ancient Celtic calender, and one adopted by many who follow a magical Celtic path, begins at Samhain and the Rites of the Birch are meant to be carried out at that time.
Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, was among the first to popularize the Ogham as the sacred alphabet of the Celts. He also claimed that all true poetry sprang from this sacred source, magical words formed of magical letters seeded in the subconscious of the inspired poet, and behind that was the power of the Great Goddess. His description of this alphabet, which he called Beth, Luis, Nion, or Birch, Rowan, and Ash respectively, follows the Celtic year of thirteen lunar months. beginning on November first.
I am following the order of trees in a poem I wrote in the early 1980’s called Witches Wheel. I wrote this poem under the influence of The White Goddess, well before the New Age version of Ogham hit the bookstores under the guise of “Celtic Astrology”. Each tree in this book is accompanied by a stanza of this old poem of mine, which was the first poem I ever had published. Even this order is unusual, but it the one that works for me. I give my reasons in the text, though I wrote the poem in a completely intuitive, stream of consciousness state that intellectually justified none of my choices.
The truth is that the idea of a Celtic Tree calender has more to do with the Celtic Twilight of the Victorian Age than with any historical facts. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful concept that inspires the imagination and gives us a sense of place in a world where human beings are increasingly alienated from nature.
As one who resonates with the most primal levels in magic, I will attempt to reach back intuitively into the origins of the Ogham in the mists of the “Dark Ages” on the British Isles. Fact or fantasy? Who cares!
Robert Place and I had so much fun with his first interview that we decided to give you Part 2. Robert is such a interesting man having not only designed five beautiful tarot decks, but being an occult scholar as well. So please enjoy more of our fascinating conversation.
Can you tell me what The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is about? It sounds very intriguing. Is it based on a Mystery Tradition? The art I saw looks very beautiful as well.
I started on The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery in 2001. At present, it consists only of the Fool, the 21 trumps, the ace and two of coins, the ace of swords, the ace of cups, and the ace of staffs. I also completed a set of the Fool and Trumps printed oversize with annotations in the margins and background done in a calligraphic script. I completed this for my exhibition in the Crafts and Folk Art Museum in LA in January, 2010. I made 17″ high prints of these and they were the main focus of the exhibit. They are also included in my book based on the exhibition, The Fool’s Journey: the History, Art, and Symbolism of the Tarot.
The inspiration for the deck came when I was looking at the paintings of 19th century English Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites believed that art was a spiritual or magical endeavor and toward this end they formed a mystical brotherhood of artists dedicated to recapturing the sincerity of the art of the early Renaissance—the same historic period that gave us the Tarot. In many ways they paved the way in England for the Golden Dawn. Burne-Jones, in particular, based his tall female beauties and melancholy heroes on the paintings of Botticelli and Michelangelo, two artists whose works are considered primary examples of Renaissance Neoplatonic mysticism. I noticed that Burne-Jones painted some of the same allegorical figures that are found in the Tarot such as Foolishness, Temperance, and the Wheel of Fortune. I always loved his style of painting and I wanted to complete the Tarot deck for him that he seems to have unintentionally started.
Robert Place: The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
As the deck progressed, besides being enamored with the beauty of the style, I found that it was the perfect means to express all of the insights that I had developed concerning the nature of the Tarot and its mystical message. It allowed me to bridge the gap and synthesize the Renaissance ideas expressed in the original Tarot with the broader archetypal interpretations of those images that were added by 19th century occultists.
The name of the deck comes from my belief that the Western system of seven virtues, is a yogic system designed to purify the seven soul centers, which ascend the human spine, and that have been known in the West at least from the time of Pythagoras (the 6th century BC). The World card, in particular, represents the virtue Prudence, who is the culmination of the four cardinal virtues. The other three virtues: Temperance, Strength, and Justice, were considered the parts of Prudence, and that fact helps to explain why the three are more explicitly illustrated in the Tarot. Prudence as Sophia (the Wisdom of God) was also the mother of the three Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. Prudence symbolizes the enlightenment that is achieved when the virtues have completed their jobs and brought each soul center into balance and health.
I went to an exhibition of Burne-Jone’s work in Burmingham when i lived in England. His work is absolutely stunning. I can see why you would be inspired by him. He also did so much! In England even some of the small country churches have stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones. That is a perfect medium for his work with the light coming through. Come to think of it—your work would make amazing stained glass.
I use to be a stained glass apprentice for about a year when I was first out of college in the 1970s.
Burne-Jones did a lot of stained glass in the US also.
I did a search to find some of his pieces and saw some great ones in Boston and Delaware. But it turned out that his first US commission was in the Episcopal Church right here in Saugerties where I live.
(Here’s a link to the stained glass windows in Saugerties:
They are gorgeous—Angels by William Morris., the rest by Burne- Jones)
I want to explore more about symbolism with you
and how you find your inspiration in other arts like painting and films and magic.
Maybe something like:
Is there a mystical unity between your tarot themes?
Is there an alchemy in the art of Burne-Jones as there is with vampires?
There is certainly a link between vampires and the PreRaphaelites.
Did you know that John Polidori who wrote The Vampyre, was
D.G. Rossetti’s uncle? Did you know about the vampiric myth that grew up around Lizzie Siddal?
I have a screenplay half written about that.
What about the Grail legend? Is that part of your alchemy as it is of Burne-Jones?
Your themes of Saints and Angels — how do they fit in? There is a Gothic quality to your
work taken as a whole I think.
Chew chew chew
Robert Place:The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
These are good questions and I will try to answer them as best as I can.
I feel that there is a unity behind all of my Tarot decks. At first glance, this may not be obvious because my first three decks: TheAlchemical Tarot, The Angels Tarot, and the Tarot of the Saints, were based on Western mystical and religious themes, and then with the creation of The Buddha Tarot and The Vampire Tarot, I seemed to be drifting further and further away from that area.
But, my goal from the beginning was to recover the original mystical message that was expressed by the Tarot’s 15th century creators and to find ways of expressing that wisdom by illustrating its connection to popular mythology or mystical systems.
My Buddha Tarot is not just about Buddhism but how it is similar to Western mystical traditions and how this comparison helps us to better understand our own traditions. My Vampire Tarot, which although it was just published last year, was actually the second deck that I began after The Alchemical Tarot, is about Dracula and how this story is based on the Grail legend which was one to the early influences on the Tarot, and that this story in turn grew out of the shamanic practice of soul retrieval.
I believe that Edward Burne-Jones was a mystic and that his paintings were his alchemical practice. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which he belonged to, was founded in 1848 by a group of artists in England who came out of the Romantic movement and shared a romantic fascination for the art of the Middle Ages. They wanted to capture the sincerity and honest piety of the works created before the time of the Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520). A time when paintings were believed to have magical curative powers, were used in rituals to heal and protect cities, and were the inspiration for pilgrimages. They believed that their art could uplift their viewers to a higher moral state and counteract the illnesses brought about by industrialization.
Burne-Jones was a second generation member of this movement and the art critic Ruskin labeled his variation the Mythic School. He focused on a mythic Classical or Arthurian world populated by tall, pale, beautiful heroines or femme fatales, and equally beautiful armored heroes. He was a major influence on the Symbolist painters that became popular in the rest of Europe at the end of the 19th century and helped create the atmosphere that led to the revival of occultism.
Toward the end of his life, beginning in 1881, Burne-Jones worked on a large mural,”The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon.” During this period he also created a number of works depicting the legend of King Arthur, including a series of tapestries (1890-1891) designed for Morris & Company, sets and costumes for the play “King Arthur” (1895) performed at the London’s Lyceum Theater under the management of Dracula author Bram Stoker, and illustrations for Sebastian Evans’ The High History of the Holy Grail (1898). But “The Sleep of Arthur” became a personal work that he slowly perfected between other commissions. When he worked on it, he would say that he was retreating to Avalon. He finished it in 1898 and died shortly after. When I read about this, I had a strong intuition that he had achieved his goal and escaped to his inner world –escaped to Avalon.
I didn’t know that Polidori, the first author of a Vampire prose, was D.G. Rossetti’s uncle. Rossetti, of course, was Burne-Jones’ mentor and was a major influence on his style. But the vampire theme comes out of the same Romantic movement, with its obsession with the Middle Ages, the irrational, and the occult, that gave rise to the Pre-Raphaelites. I believe that the pre-Raphaelites and Burne Jones in particular influenced Bram Stoker. In Dracula, Stoker created, a strong beautiful heroine, several femme fatales, and a group of heros that were basically knights –characters that were similar to Burne-Jones’s figures. I acknowledged this by incorporating a Pre-Raphaelite style in my illustrations for my Vampire Tarot. Some of the figures are based on photos of the famous Pre-Raphaelite model Jane Morris; for example, the Mina trump.
Robert Place: Vampire Tarot
I love the Jane Morris paintings. She had a very mysterious, silent quality that suited those mystic images of women.
Rossetti first wife, Lizzie Sidall, was the artist’s primary model and in spite of their class differences he married her in 1860. With his instruction and encouragement she also became an artist. By 1862, Lizzie feared that her husband was looking for a younger muse. After her daughter was stillborn and she became pregnant again she was hopelessly depressed. She committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. Overcome with grief and romantic ideals, Rossetti placed a book containing the only copies of his poems in her grave. After seven years he had second thoughts and had her exhumed so that he could retrieve this book. Her body was said to have been in perfect condition. Her red hair had continued to grow while she was dead and now filled the coffin framing her and creating a memorable last impression. The image of the beautiful dead Lizzie surrounded in her luscious hair captured the public imagination and led to the rumors that she was actually undead. Red hair in itself is often associated with vampires. Stoker was likely to have been influenced by this description when he wrote the scene with Lucy beautifully laid out in her coffin.
Burne Jones’ son, Philip Burne-Jones, was also a painter, but his only well known painting is “The Vampire,” a portrait of a femme fatale vampire leaning over her male victim. The model for Philip’s vampire was Mrs. Patrick Campbell, an actress who in 1893 played the lead in “The Second Mrs. Tanqueray,” captured the public eye, and became famous for her beauty and talent. Philip dated her for a while, showered her with expensive presents, and painted her several times. But for the vampire portrait he worked from memory after she broke his heart by dumping him for a leading man and then a series of other lovers. In 1897, he displayed the painting at the annual summer exhibition of the New Gallery, a major show that included works by Sargent as well as Philip’s father. Alongside the painting, Philip included a poem “The Vampire” by his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, that described the foolishness of a man allowing himself to be destroyed by a heartless woman. This exhibition was held only a few months before Stoker’s Dracula was first in print.
Philp Burne-Jones: The Vampire
Philip’s painting received good reviews in London, but bad reviews later, after a New York showing. Some reporters also recognized his model, and speculation on the circumstances that led to her depiction as a vampire became the focus of gossip. During her American tour, which coincided with the American exhibition of “The Vampire,” Mrs. Campbell’s agent played up her connection to the painting. Philip, his painting, and Mrs. Campbell all came together in Chicago and the press had a field day with the story. In 1907, Porter Emerson Browne was commissioned by the actor Robert Hilliard to write a play based on the painting, which was called ” A Fool There Was.” Katherine Kaelred played the vampire and the play was carefully constructed so that it ended with a tableau that echoed the painting. The play was a popular success and influenced the burgeoning American movie industry. William Fox bought the rights to the play and created a film version, which stared Theda Bara. This role as a heartless femme fatale, which Bara continued to play in over 40 films, earned her the nickname ” the vamp.” As you can see, Pre-Raphealites, vampires, and popular imagination and culture are all intimately connected.
This was a really fascinating interview, Bob! I have long been a fan of the PreRpaelites and Dracula—-all of it and you told me things I didn’t know. Thank you Robert, it has been wonderful talking to you.
I would like to mention that Robert has a beautiful new book out:
The Fool’s Journey: The History, Art, and Symbolism of the Tarot
An 8.5″ by 11′ full color book
A PDF download is also available for only $10.00.
Interview by Kala Ambrose: author, psychic intuitive, wisdom teacher, inspirational speaker, muse, oracle and voice of The Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show at www.ExploreYourSpirit.com
Reprinted with her kind permission.
My good friend Judika Illes has written the most sumptuous encyclopedias. Her 5000 Spells, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft,Encyclopedia of Spirits have been sources of endless inspiration and fascination. They are great reference books for not only magic but history, anthropology, and culture. This is a wonderful interview she did with Kala Ambrose–and she even quotes yours truly.
Welcome to Kala’s Quick Five, where I chat with fascinating authors, artists, teachers and researchers and ask them five questions about their work. My guest today is Judika Illes, an independent scholar, educator, and author of several books of folklore, folkways, and mythology about the subjects of magic, the occult, divination, diverse spiritual traditions, witchcraft, and the paranormal. She has a certification in therapeutic aromatherapy and taught introductory courses on that subject for the Australasian College of Herbal Studies (2000-2002). She is a practitioner of taromancy, tasseography, and other forms of divination. Her published books include The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, The Encyclopedia of Spirits, The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, and the topic of our interview today – The Weiser Field Guide to Witches.
Kala: Judika, it’s a pleasure to speak with you again. I so enjoyed our conversation on the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, where we discussed your work and your book, Magic When You Need It. We’re back again, this time to discuss your new book, The Weiser Field Guide to Witches: From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz, which hits the stores on October 1, 2010. What prompted you to write a field guide about witches?
Judika: My very earliest encounters with books of magic and metaphysics involved the old Samuel Weiser bookshop in New York City and so it is such a wonderful, marvelous karmic turn of events that I now find myself affiliated with the Weiser publishing house whose historic roots stretch back to that store. Last year, Weiser Publishing initiated a metaphysical field guide series: Raymond Buckland’s The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts was the first book in the series. When Weiser asked whether I would like to write a field guide to witches, I jumped at the chance. I am honored to be following in Raymond Buckland’s footsteps and I feel so blessed to be working with Weiser Books.
Kala: The book covers famed historical legends including Aleister Crowley and Marie Laveau to popular cinematic figures such as Harry Potter and the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m excited to see that you included historical figures as well as modern day pop icons. I saw Wicked performed live this year and found it to be a fantastic twist and representation. What did you uncover during your research for this book that you found to be most fascinating?
> Judika: Did you read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Gregory Maguire novel that the musical is based upon? I loved it. It addressed a lot of my own personal issues with the MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. These issues are discussed more fully in one of my other books, The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, which has substantial sections devoted to L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wizard of Oz, the movie versions, and Maguire’s novel. I would really like to see the Wicked musical one day.
I’m always fascinated by twists, always trying to look at old subjects from different or fresh perspectives. I can’t say that there’s one most fascinating thing in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches for me because the entire topic enthralls me. There’s nothing about witches, witchcraft, or even just perceptions about witches and witchcraft that doesn’t interest me. But I am always uncovering new details. Researching is like intellectual archaeology and so you’re always digging up something new, something that will help you re-examine a topic from different angles. During the researching of The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, I was able to uncover new details about people I’ve written about before- new for me, anyway.
For example, while writing this book, I read a lot of Sybil Leek’s work: now I’ve loved Sybil Leek since I was a kid and saw her on television, I think on the Mike Douglas show but I did not know she had written a children’s book, The Jackdaw and the Witch. I also hadn’t realized that all of Sybil’s many books, many of which were best-sellers, are now out of print, which I find very distressing.
For a change, I focused on Franz Bardon’s involvement with folk magic and herbalism, something that is rarely discussed as emphasis tends to be on his work with Hermetics. For those unfamiliar with him, Franz Bardon is an extremely significant figure in the history of witchcraft and magical practice but he was a modest man who lived behind the Iron Curtain and is all too often overlooked.
Many of the details of Veronica Franco’s life were new and surprising for me. She was a Venetian courtesan who survived Europe’s witch hunts. She was a rarity: a well-educated, very literate and articulate woman who successfully defended herself against witchcraft charges and was freed. When you write about the history of witches and witchcraft, you inevitably tell a lot of sad stories. Veronica did not have an entirely happy ending—she was quite poor at the end of her life—but it was a nice change to discuss a witchcraft-accusation tale that did not end in complete tragedy.
> Kala: Of all of the titles that women have claimed, the term witch I believe, has been the most misused, misunderstood and misrepresented over the centuries. I have past life memories of practicing the wise woman ways and being condemned for doing so in those past lives. It is so sad at times to still see how misunderstood the term is to this day. Can you define and bring some clarity to our readers on who witches were and who they are today?
> Judika: I have similar past life memories, Kala. My absolute favorite definition of “witch” is from author Aline DeWinter—I quote it in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches: “A Witch is a person who sees everything as alive and powerful. We walk in a sacred manner and all of nature responds.” I can’t possibly say it any better.
For me, a witch is a person possessing both spiritual freedom and personal power. A witch has a kind of freedom of soul and mind, even if she sometimes finds herself oppressed by life’s circumstances in other ways. A witch is in touch with her own personal spiritual and magical power and makes conscious choices and decisions regarding when and if and how to access and use that power. I think those are eternal definitions that apply now and forever.
But the word “witch” also gets very carelessly thrown around a lot: it’s evolved into an umbrella term encompassing incredibly diverse, often contradictory definitions. That’s as true now as it was in the past. The word “witch” has historically been applied to healers, priestesses, magical practitioners, shamans, and practitioners of polytheistic faiths. It’s also used as a derogatory term for people interested in the occult, unconventional people, and also as a misogynistic term for women in general, especially uppity women who don’t display sufficient submissiveness.
I am constantly asked whether I’m a witch and my consistent response is to ask the questioner to define the word “witch” for me, which usually really annoys them. Now I’m not a particularly confrontational person but it’s crucial that the word “witch” be defined: you have to be careful because one person’s definition is not the same as another’s. I define “witch” very positively. I have always loved and admired witches: as a child, I perceived Hansel and Gretel as a tragedy because the witch was murdered. Hansel and Gretel was a really stressful story for me to hear but I was worried about the witch, not the kids. However, I am well aware that not everyone shares my perspective. So when someone asks you if you are a witch, for safety’s sake, before you answer, you need to know whether they perceive witches as role models or as servants of Satan.
>High Priestess by Thomas Dodd
> Kala: In your book, you also explore the ancient goddesses including Isis, Hekate, and Aradia among others. Do you feel that the calling of the high priestess is returning? Many express an awareness that the Divine Feminine energy is rising at this time, how do you feel this will affect the world?
> Judika: Lilith, Kybele, Yemaya, and Oshun are also among those included in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. And Naamah and Nephthys, too. I can’t overlook my Ladies! I create field guides and encyclopedias and so I try very hard to write from a neutral position. I present a lot of diverse information, I’m not writing only about my own personal experiences but, that said, a lot of what I write about is very personal to me. I write from within the traditions, not merely as an observer.
I think the calling of the high priestess has never gone away—the difference is that in the 21st century more of us are now in a position to heed that call and to demonstrate our devotion in a public fashion and thus serve as inspiration and encouragement to others. So the response to the calling can expand exponentially whereas previously, for reasons of safety, these practices had to be maintained under deep cover, very discreetly and secretly and on a much smaller scale. If the Divine Feminine energy is nurtured and allowed and encouraged to rise, then that will be humanity’s salvation. We are in trouble without it. But it is very much a calling.
There is a basic shamanic tenet that the Call of the Spirits—or a specific deity or goddess—can only be ignored at your own risk. If you feel that call in your heart, mind, or in your blood or bones, you must respond. The alternative is depression, illness, general frustration and unhappiness. But the wonderful thing is that the spirits—and I use that word as an equalizer, I write about so many of them from so many traditions that I very consciously try not to impose a hierarchy—the spirits do respond. They speak with us and will negotiate methods of veneration and communication that suit each of us. So just as there are many ways to be a witch, there are many ways to be a high priestess. And new paths are being forged all the time. We are blessed to live in a magical and spiritual renaissance and it is crucial that we nurture and protect it.
> Kala: Judika, looking back at your life thus far in review, how has your practice of the metaphysical arts enhanced and affected your life. Have you been surprised by the journey along the way?
> Judika: Kala, it has enhanced and affected every aspect of my life. I cannot even begin to imagine who I would be without it. I do believe in the concept of the witchblood. My fascination and identification with witches, witchcraft, and metaphysics manifested at such an early age: it was just there inside me from the start. I can’t even begin to explain it otherwise. I have personally had a very circuitous spiritual journey, a surprising and unpredictable personal path. For example, what I am working on now is another massive encyclopedia, this one devoted to saints of many spiritual traditions. If you had told me twenty years ago that I’d be working with saints, I would have laughed. I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here I am.
Kala: Judika, thank you for joining me here on Kala’s Quick Five. More about Judika and her book The Weiser Field Guide to Witches at www.judikailles.com
> Judika: Thank you so much, Kala! It’s always a pleasure speaking with you!
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I was wondering what kind of article I can write for this website. And then it just hit me – there are so many categories and topics here, so many things Aline is talking about, why not merge them all together?
I begun my adventure with the supernatural in 2005. I am definitely young explorer of the paranormal, but I already know a few things. What was it that I begun with? Psionics – a little bit of a fluffy and childish approach to psychic development. But I wanted more, so from fluffy websites I moved to reading books, from there to occult practices – different systems, from Tai Chi meditation to Norse Runes, from Shamanism to Chaos Magick. With time, all of this merged into one thing. No longer was I talking about different systems, different practices. The terms became worthless, and even troubling as I was talking with people.
Everyone got their own set of terms. I was unable to communicate with Chaos mages, Wiccans thought I was a vampire, vampires thought I was just an asshole, but most people thought I had no idea what I was talking about – while in reality, they were those who had no idea what the occult really is. Not all of them, of course, I’ve met many people who thought like me.
For me, shamanism, psychic abilities, chaos magick, Norse runes, tarot — all of this is the same thing. They are the same kinds of occult practices – using our will to use some supernatural energies to shape the universe we live in as we want it, or at least -to perceive the universe using extraordinary means – like divination systems (runes, tarot, i ching) or psychic abilities, different forms of clairvoyance.
It is my belief that people who think that ancient shaman and modern Chaos mage perform different occult arts, those people are simple wrong and there are a lot more for them to learn. Every single occult practice is based on four elements:
Needs to be prepared for the practice. Occult orders usually create whole temples, modern psychic vampyres simple cleanse the place of negative energies, Wiccan creates altars, psychics turned one room into simple meditative space. This creates a place where higher energies are created. And these enrages support the occult art process.
There are so many terms: PSI, Ki, Chi, Prana, Kia, Odic Force, Ethers and many more. But these terms represent the very same energy, the energy that cannot be easily defined, but the energy that is used to shape the universe (telekinesis, law of attraction, different forms of occult spells), and transfer information (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, astral projections).
The Goal :
What do you want to achieve? What is your goal? It is something we want, it might be a wish to send a telepathic message to a friend, or attract $10 000 USD within next 24 hours. The goal is what we want to achieve while sitting in specific place, using specific energies, with…
The power that shapes the universe and our life. When you have the goal, the will the I really want this to happen and the power to make it happen.
Those are four primary elements of every occult practice. If you will look closer, you will find all these elements in every magical or psychical system in existence.
Odin: Eric Tesol
Choosing Your Occult System
Everyone of us have to choose the system to follow – some people choose Wicca, some Chaos Magick, some becomes psychics, and some mix all the systems there are. As one wise magus said, “With time each one of us creates his own practical system.”
If the principles are all the same, there is really no difference which system you will choose.
But you need to feel the system. That is where some books come to be – for example, I do not really feel good with modern occult systems, but I read some books about Hebrew occultism, and I was always fascinated with Norse mythology. In my practice I often use Hebrew rites, and I am a big fan of runes, I have implemented some rites from Runic Magick in my own practice.
These are the archetypes, and you should read a lot of books in order to find out which archetype speaks to you. Thor is a god of War, but I prefer Thor over Mars from Roman mythology – although these are the same archetypes, I respond better to Thor – therefore, my occult practices gives me better results, only because I perceive Norse archetypes as more powerful and more real. Someone else would say I’m nuts, because the only real spirits are these from The Goetia. But the reality is – we’re still dealing with the same archetypes.
The same thing relates to divination – I prefer Norse Runes over Tarot cards, but I don’t think either of these systems is better than the other one. Some people prefer Tarot because they feel it – I don’t feel the cards, I feel the Runes.
Terminology is the Source
The source of all problems. I do not say we should create ultimate set of terms for all occult practices, it is impossible. But based on this article, you must understand that you need to keep an open mind. Never assume that someone is lying or have no idea what he’s talking about, or he is just wrong. Discuss the case, try to get to the bottom of things. If I say PSI and someone from India will say Prana, I will simplified things in such manner, so the guy will know that what he calls Prana, I call PSI. You get it?
Because at the source, all things are the same – you say tomato, I say tomato. With hundreds of years, different terms and names has been created to represent the same things. Around different terms, different systems of beliefs has been created. But at the very core, it’s all the same – the place, the energy, the goal and the will to shape the universe. This creates magick, this creates the occult philosophy.
People face problems without understanding this – they practice psychic abilities, and they wonder if they should start practicing some magick system, and vice versa. Let me tell you something: As long as the occult system works for you – stick with it. After all, what matters the most, is the result of your practice. Everything else is just the language that is too limited to explain what we really think…
Nathan is AN energy worker and paranormal investigator based in Poland, Europe.
He IS also non-fiction writer, check out his “Psychic Development Guidebook”
The gorgeous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Ballet Russes is charged with eroticism and the glamor that goes with it. Indeed Shakespeare’s play with its two pairs of lover lost in the moonlit forest, love spells, jealousies, flirtations, deceptions, bands of flower fairies led by the Trickster Faun, Puck, is a rite of fertility magic. The choreographer has captured the hive quality of fairy beings, fused together in dances of sensuality and ecstasy. Oberon enters with his train of night and crown of branches. Beside him is the child, a grim reminder of the sacrifices of old, for it is Midsummer when the Summer King gives his life to the harvest. Titania is tricked by Puck into making love to one of his hoofed brethren, a donkey, for the fairies do not discriminate.
Faeries are more than nature spirits. They are the spiritual Intelligences of the earth. Its is Faery from which life springs and to which it returns in never-ending cycles of death and rebirth. Earth is a sexual planet. We see this all around us: constant reproduction, growth, flourishing, impregnating and dying off so more life can be born. This is what earth does. It what faeries do. Therefore Earth is also a Love planet, for love charges eroticism with spiritual power. Mothers tend their young with love so that they will have the strength to survive.
Faeries serve the life force. They are morally neutral but can be bent to human will. To those in harmony, the faeries will appear beautiful and grant gifts of knowledge and creative power. To those of wicked intent who call upon them for selfish purposes, the fairies will take on that pollution.
It’s sad that so there is so much left hand path magic going on today because the spirit world is darkening and suffering and becoming distorted by it, and we see what is happening to the earth. The dark and light Seelie Courts are a totally modern pop phenomenon brought about during the primal rift that separated the worlds.
In the old fertility religions, the peasants would couple in the fields in imitation of the faeries. They shared the erotic life of Faery in recognition that this is the way of the Earth. Done with full spiritual awareness of the energies involved, this was good magical participation at the high tides of the solar festivals. I believe blood sacrifice associated with Midsummer were a degradation of the original rites, because blood was used to embody spirits. This was not necessary before the coming of the Wasteland.
Wells and Springs are Entrances to Faery
Wells were one of the main entrances and exits between Faery and the outer world. The Arthurian Legend of the Wasteland describes what happened when these portals between the worlds were shut down by invaders. In The Elucidation, the tale is told of a temple of priestesses that tended the sacred wells. A drink of water from the Priestesses of the Wells was charged with healing power because of its links with the Love vibrations of the Earth and wisdom of the Faeries.
An army of brutal, warlord invaders, led by King Amangons, attacked the Priestess’s temple and raped them and stole their sacred goblet. After that, the wells were closed and the faeries were buried underground, no longer able to interact with mortals and help the earth to flourish. rape destroyed the the sacred sexuality of women and corrupted the lustiness of men to brutality. The continuity of the life forces was severed, the links between the world broken. Thus the earth did not bear fruit and was laid waste.
This was when the sacrifice of the Summer King came about represented by the little boy who is King for a Day with Oberon.
The importance of Faery can thus be seen as very great. Every wound to Mother Earth is a wound to Faery and to the spiritual envelope that is the Anima Mundi or Soul of the World. can we restore the Wasteland before it too late? Even in the Arthurian legend in the 12th century the Grail, representative of the cup of the Priestesses of the Wells, was withdrawn because of war and destruction of sacred sexuality and feminine.
“Abashed the Devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is…”
This article was prompted by a pair of short films by a documentary film maker whose work I really enjoy. The films are called Black Magic Kingdoms and can by found on the Enigma Channel of Chris Everard. In these films, Chris pans over the masonry of Narbonne Cathedral and both inside and outside of Cologne Cathedral in Germany. What he says is correct: the stone is carved over with demons from the Goetia of King Solomon. To the modern mind, impacted as it is by skepticism towards the supernatural, atheism, and materialistic science, interpreting these figures as evocations to demons rather than to devotions to Christ is an easy mistake to make. But we have to realize that these magnificent buildings were not designed in modern times by people with a post modern mind set. They are visions from the heart and soul of the Middle Ages, and quite early at that —–the 12th century.
I was born into a French Catholic family. My father’s side was intensely religious having emigrated to Quebec in the 1604 and bringing their 1604 religious practices with them. Going to the cathedral in early childhood where both French and Latin were spoken filled my subconscious with powerful, numinous images and an endless attraction to things Medieval. It also implanted with deep spiritual struggle within. As I grew in the Existentialist 1960s, I was forced to question the basic Christian belief that Jesus Christ IS God.
But people in the Middle Ages in Europe had no such struggle. They believed. Only passionate belief could explain the sacrifices that must have gone into creating these massive and intricate temples, these consciousness transformers that send your spirit soaring. Chris Everard is right that there is no place in the Bible that talks about these demons, though Satan is the constant underlying adversary of the New Testament, lurking between the lines —just as his minions cling to the walls of the cathedrals.
Medieval Christians really believed that Jesus Christ was God.
I am sure there are people who believe this now, but most have a hard time with this these days.
Mystical, esoteric Christianity is a doctrine of Immanence—-the awareness that the Divine infuses everything that exists. Everything is alive and has a soul. If you believe in a Creative Intelligence that dreamed the worlds into life, how could it be otherwise?.
God walked the earth in the form of a man to transform the world, to show human beings that we too are capable of Higher Consciousness, even of miracles. By taking on human form, God infused His essence directly into humanity, kindling the Divine Spark. His adversaries were those who ( to this day) work to reduce humanity to the level of zomboid slaves. This is where the concept that God so loved mankind that He sent his only begotten Son (Himself) to save us comes from, I think: The devil was having a splendid time in the Roman Empire. Corruption, brutality, war, enslavement threatened to devour the world and God took notice.
The story of Paradise Lost by John Milton was based on the old Celtic myths about the War in Heaven that was caused when the archangel, Lucifer, challenged the worthiness of the God’s creation. He didn’t like the human race much and wanted nothing to do with it. Archangel Michael threw him out of Heaven and that was how he came to try to destroy us ever since. So the story goes…
The Cathedrals are Encrusted with Demons.
Most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate but they understood symbols—-pictures that were worth a thousand words. The cathedrals were referred to as Books in Stone. They were carved over with spiritual lessons: The life of Christ, visions of Heaven and Hell and the hierarchies of the worlds for a few.
Symbolizes resurrection from death
The cathedral is the House of God. Often referred as Mother Church, the cathedral was meant to be the body of Mary, Mother of God. The faithful entered the body as sinners and, after receiving the Eucharist, exit reborn in Christ. For Medieval people this ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They really believed in this powerful supernatural event. Clever modern atheists like to point out that the Eucharist is cannibalistic, a vestige of human sacrifice. What they miss is that, to the believer, Christ/ God gave his life to be the LAST human sacrifice. The Resurrection made His flesh divine, no longer human but something higher that when taken into us transferred its power to us to transform our flesh. Just as corn dollies replace human sacrifices to Goddess at Harvest, the wafer and wine stand in for the transmuted flesh and life force of Christ. The emphasis on the Scared Heart links the blood to the circulation of love and forgiveness through energy center of the heart by which we connect to the highest spiritual dimensions.
What the cathedrals teach us is that, not only was God’s purpose to redeem humanity, but the entire Creation including the seventy-two demons of the Goetia.
Medieval cathedrals have an area called the tympanum, the half moon area above the door with a depiction of Christ at the Last Judgment. On His right the good people are escorted to Heaven with the angels and on his left the bad ones undergo horrific tortures by the devils in Hell.
Of course the quickest interpretation of why these devils are here is too scare sinners into obeying the Church. I believe that is the role of Last Judgment Hell, though in this depiction from Autun Cathedral there is a touching image of Christ’s mercy as His hands reach down to lift the damned up form the lower depths.
This same compassion must be extended to the seventy-two demons whether they like it or not. Demons have no free will, they are what they are, but are still part of the Creation. This suggests that in order for full redemption to succeed, even they must be transformed to their divine nature. Even the deepest darkness must be returned to God. Indeed some of these grotesques—-for they are not all gargles or gargoyles—- exhibit a kind of longing for the light of understanding, a kind of confused vulnerability.
I think it is a very beautiful belief that by entering such a place one is transformed form a body of corruption to one of divine fire and that all living things will be brought to that blessed state with you.
Can the Creation be redeemed with any piece of it missing? In Celtic Faery Tradition we learn that even Lucifer himself must be transformed, even he must be brought back to Heaven to sit at the left side of his Father.
Hierarchies of Worlds
“Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.”
— John Milton (Paradise Lost)
We can’t leave the Medieval mind set without taking into account the hierarchical view of the Creation. The above and below notions of Heaven and Hell were far more concrete when people believed that the earth was flat. Hell and the demons were under the plate of the earth. earth was like a flying saucer in space and Heaven was above. So we see in the cathedrals: The demonic figure are usually on the bottom and as the building goes higher, the angels and saints go up until, at the very top is often a Crucifix or a cross or a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Demons are in the roof, as in Notre Dame de Paris, I think reveal an awareness by the designers of the many dimensions that surround the Earth, our Paradise Lost. The limitation of stone, and all concrete images, is that they must SHOW things that are abstract by either anthropomorphizing them — as in the case God the Father as a bearded old man—-or must use space in suggestive ways that may not be understandable without an explanation. The explanation for demons being in the upper levels of the cathedrals could be that it was the only way to show that they are all around us in the fourth dimension. That they can see us through the ethers ( the sky) though we may not see them. This does not “elevate” them in status but does depict their power over us, spurring us on to take refuge with Christ—-inside the cathedral —in the body of his Mother, the Church.
As for gargoyles —many of them are not at all demonic, but rather images of peasants and common people –the only characters seen as fit to spew run off from the roofs, the only beings “low” enough to act as gutters. Just doing their jobs…..
Freemasonry and the Demonic Cathedrals
The cathedral builders were the first Masons. What was merely the artisans guild of stone cutters has been transformed in modern times to a sinister secret society said, at the very top levels, to worship Lucifer. That being said, it does not mean that the medieval stone masons were into anything of the kind. Of course their emblems and signs are all over the cathedrals just in the way that even today, real silver is stamped Sterling.
Artists, again not readers of words, would have their signs, symbols that stood for their names. That these were co-opted by modern Freemasons does not mean that Medieval masons were worshiping the Devil. An aversion to the Catholic Church does not mean that it is right to interpret some the of the greatest works of art ever created with diabolical intent. These ideas are dangerous. Three-hundred years of the executions of millions of innocent people to such ideas getting out of hand attests to how dangerous these notions can be.
For me, our current escalation into scientific tyranny is far more frightening than the works of the ancient stone-cutters art.
Interview with Robert Place: Tarot Illustrator & Historian
I was living in London when I bought Robert place’s Alchemical Tarot. I have been interested in Alchemy since discovering Carl Jung’s work on Alchemical Art in the late 1970′s and since been very aware of those forces at work in my life. So I was very excited to find this Tarot deck and even more excited at the idea of combining Tarot and Alchemy. The deck is also extremely beautiful and poetic. Robert Place’s style is so crystal clear and refined; his choices and use of symbolism inspired. But he wasn’t just inspired once—-he has gone on to be create four more decks and has two more in progress. The Alchemical Tarot was followed by Angels Tarot, Tarot of the Saints, Buddha Tarot and The Vampire Tarot. His recent history of Tarot, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination has been described as one of the most important books ever written on the Tarot. Works in progress include Tarot of the Seven-Fold Mystery (looks gorgeous!) and the Facsimile Italian Renaissance Woodcut Tarot.
In my research, I discovered that Robert is also an internationally renowned jeweler. If his jewelry is anything like his Tarot decks it must be amazing. He is a really nice man and we had fun doing this interview by email over several weeks.
All images are copyrighted by Robert M. Place and are used with his permission
Aline: I bought your Alchemical Tarot shortly after it was published. I love Alchemy, but I was also drawn to the clarity your images and the interesting combination of Alchemy with Tarot. I would not have taken you for a Vampire fan. Is there an Alchemy of Vampirism? Does the vampire have a place in the alchemical universe? If so what would it be?
Robert:. The first Tarot I designed was the Alchemical Tarot. The thing that I liked most about it was that it was inspired by a vision of how the alchemical Great Work, the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Tarot trumps were related stories. In fact alchemy seems to have influenced the original designers of the Tarot. So after I completed the Alchemical deck I wanted to find another story that was in sync with the trumps in the same way. My next inspiration was to make a Vampire Tarot because I saw it as a related story but the publishers were not ready for it at that time.
While working on the Alchemical Tarot I teamed up with Rosemary Ellen Guiley on the book for the deck. At that time she was also working on a couple books on vampires and I did some illustrations for her. I had always been enamored with vampire stories and I began to see that the literary vampire was related to alchemy. In fact in the novel, Dracula, alchemy is one of the disciplines that Dracula is supposed to have mastered.
The Philosopher’s Stone is described as a stone but not a stone, sometimes it is a liquid or it is immaterial. But it always described as red in color. The Stone is a mystical substance that can improve any substance that it comes in contact with, It can change lead into gold, it can cure any illness, it can turn an ordinary man into a sage, and it can prolong life indefinitely. This supposedly happened to the 14th century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. According to the stories, he created the Stone in the early 1400s and he and his wife are still alive. So you can see that the how this relates tot he vampire–both are looking for a red liquid that can prolong life indefinitely.
Aline: I had thought vampires might be connected to the nigredo- the shadow as well. You discuss that in your book. I am reading the book to the Vampire Tarot. Its really good.
Robert: This age old preoccupation with immortality seems to be at all time high these days.
That is an interesting topic in itself and how the Vampire mythos plays into that.
Aline: I have another question coming from the artist point of view. I am curious about your artistic path. I see the influence of the medieval woodcuts in your work. I wonder about your inspiration. Was Alchemical art an early influence on
your style and choice of subject matter?
What drew you to Alchemical art, the art or the study of Alchemy?
How did Tarot come into your life? That’s always a good story.
I have more, but I’ll save them. This is fun because we are busy people
and its nice to find a way.
Robert: I have always known that I was an artist since I could first pick up a crayon. As a child, I would look for inspiration wherever I cold find it. My first models for how to draw came from comic books but while in school working on projects I became fascinated with the pictures in encyclopedias and began to develop a delineated style like the ink drawing that illustrated the encyclopedia. I was always the class artist and I spent most of my time in grammar school working on large historic scenes that were stapled on bulletin boards.
When I was in fifth grade, we studied the Classical gods and my interest really peaked. I put together a booklet with drawings of all of the gods and goddesses that we studied. I drew them from pictures of Greek statues and the teachers and other adults were blown away by how realistically I could draw. It was the gods that put me over the edge artistically. I think that I lived another life in ancient Greece–maybe several.
When I was in college in the 1960s I discovered the occult. I spent a lot of time in the library looking at books on occult subjects and started visiting an occult book store in Hackensack, New Jersey, and another in Greenwich village. I still have books from those shops. The one in the Village also sold powdered incense and I can still smell the incense when I open those books. One of my favorite books from that time is The Picture Museum of Sorcery, Magic, and Alchemy by Emile Grillot de Givry. This book is filled with magical and occult pictures from old woodcuts and engravings and it turned out to be an important book that continues to feed my inspirations. My girlfriend at that time was into the Tarot. She used the Waite-Smith deck, which was about all you could get in the 60s. But in the Picture Museum I saw pictures of antique Tarot’s from the 1400s to the 1700s and I started creating my own deck based on the Tarot of Marseilles. I only completed four cards, though, and then, seeing how much work it was going to be, I lost interest.
I was not involved with the Tarot again for many years but, in 1982, I had a dream that changed that situation. In the dream, I received a phone call from a dream law firm in England and the ringing of the phone in that dream brought on an intense clarity that makes the dream impossible to forget. Even now I can easily visualize the dream. When the phone rang, I remember thinking, “how can someone call you in a dream? I didn’t know that that could happen.” When I answered the phone, a dream operator verified that I was Robert Place and then connected me with a woman from the dream law firm. The second woman told me that I had an inheritance coming from an ancestor in England, and that it had great power. She said that it was called “the key,” it would come in a box from England, and that I would recognize it when I saw it. When I woke up the dream had been so vivid that I expected the box to be at the foot of the bed. It wasn’t, but, within a few days, my friend Scott came to my house to show me his new Waite-Smith Deck. My head turned in his direction of its own will and then my eyes decided to focus on the deck in his hands. I immediately recognized it as my inheritance. In a few more days my friend Ed gave me a Tarot of Marseilles deck. He said that he just had a feeling that I needed it. After that, I went to New York City to buy my own copy of the Waite-Smith deck. With these decks, I started on my study of the Tarot and Western mysticism.
Aline: That is an amazing story! It sounds like Fortuna had plans for you—or the Gods were calling again.
Robert: That is how I started my obsessive study of the Tarot. I soon realized that most of the books on Tarot did not make much sense historically and that the occult correlations for the images were not that helpful either. Instead I looked at the pictures themselves and let them talk to me. The pictures soon led me further into the study of alchemy, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, mysticism, and magic, which I continued for many years.
Now, let’s jump ahead to 1987. By this time my study of mysticism and the occult had become even more obsessive. Although I was making my living as an art jeweler, I was spending more and more time reading and less and less time on my work. One day in August, I was looking at my old friend The Picture Museum and I became fascinated by a 17th century alchemical engraving representing the Philosopher’s Stone in an abstract way. The design depicted a heart in the center of a cross with images of the four elements assigned to each corner, an arrangement called a quincunx. As I looked at this image, I realized that the heart in the center was symbolically interchangeable with the dancing nude in the center of the World card and that the symbols of the elements assigned to the corners were also interchangeable with the symbols of the four evangelists in the corners of the World. Pictures like this hold tremendous power and I had just unlocked the power in this one. It was like a key opening a door in the back of my mind and out of this door came a flood of images. Within seconds, I saw that all of the trumps in the Tarot were interchangeable with alchemical images and that when that interchange was complete it was evident that the Tarot’s trumps were telling the same story as the alchemical great work, the Magnum Opus. The Tarot could be read as a text on the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, the magical transformative substance that could prolong life.
Aline: How remarkable!
Robert: I began working on The Alchemical Tarot to illustrate this revelation and I started writing the book (although I had not considered myself a writer before this) to explain my vision. It took me seven years and the deck was published by Thorsons in England in 1995. Rosemary Ellen Guiley teamed up with me on the book. As for the images, besides The Picture Museum, I relied heavily on Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy, and The Golden Game, which is full of 17th century alchemical engravings. In keeping with the vision of the deck, I made conscious references to images from these engravings. My style of drawing is more like a woodcut than an engraving though. The biggest influence on my style of drawing in The Alchemical Tarot is Albrecht Durer’s woodcuts. I have a Dover book with all of his woodcuts and whenever I was stuck on how to render or shade a form with lines I would look and the book and see how Durer would do it.
Aline: Yes, I can see the influence of Durer in your work. But also the look of Alchemical art itself which is mostly woodcuts.
Maier: Atalanta Fugiens, 1618
Aline: One more question: You have designed 5 Tarot decks. That is amazing!
Now, I painted a tarot deck in the 1990′s that was never published.
During the four and a half years it took me to do that, many weird things happened.
I began to wonder if the concentration on the cards was effecting my life. I did not paint them in order
but received visions that came when they wanted to an I painted them in that order.
Did you find that working on Tarot caused things to happen in your life?
If so can you share a story about that?
Robert: It is funny that you should ask about the effect designing the cards has on the designer because that is actually part of the reason I stopped when I first started creating a deck in college. I noticed that the card that I drew would manifest in my life. The last one I did was the Tower and after that I had a falling out with my girlfriend. So I stopped. When I started on The Alchemical Tarot though things were different. For one thing I no longer used the cards as a way of making predictions about the future. I came to see the Tarot as a way of conversing with the Higher Self and obtaining wise advice. Every card has wisdom to impart and if that was what manifested after I did the design there was no problem. What started to happen is that I would include details in the picture, guided by my intuition and not really know why I was doing that. It was not until later when I was using the cards that I began to understand some of these details and was able to read them.
For example, when I designed Justice I placed the female figure on a stone base in the center of the picture and placed two columns behind and to either side of her. Her arms extended to either side holding her sword in her left hand and her scales in her right so that each tool lined up with the column in the background. When I did this, I was thinking that this was an odd way to compose the picture. It was not something that I would usually do because I would be afraid that it would look awkward. However, it seemed to work and I went with it. Then I spontaneously added flames and a column of smoke emerging from her crown, like she was a furnace, and I put an eye in the center for the flames. It was not until I was looking at the picture later that I realized what I had done was to relate the figure to the Kabalistic Tree of Life with its three columns. The scales on our left related to the pillar of severity, the sword on our right related to the pillar of mercy, and Justice’s body formed the central pillar with the column of smoke rising toward the divine presence. That the scales were on the side of severity made sense because one has to be severe or unemotional to find the true balance without any prejudice. Also the sword is a symbol of action or punishment and this does need to be tempered with mercy or forgiveness.
Aline: The archetypes are very powerful. They have to well up in your subconscious mind when you dwell on the symbols and then putting them paper “manifests ” them in some way. It is interesting that that was more managable when you stopped using them for divination —-perhaps your approach prevented the dark side being triggered…
Is there anything you would like to add? Are there any new projects you would like us to know about?
Robert Right now I am working on a book about the Tarot exhibition that I curated at the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum. The exhibit was a huge success. It got two articles in the LA Times and record attendance. This book will be a catalog of the show providing examples of important Tarot decks from the earliest 15th century Italian decks to the latest designs by contemporary artists. It also will have additional illustrations comparing the Tarot designs and symbols to other Renaissance and occult art and even to Egyptian art. It features all of the trumps from my Annotated Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, which I actually completed for the exhibit, and all of the trumps from my Alchemical Tarot with related examples of alchemical art.
People who are interested in finding out when it is complete should watch my web site, link to me on Facebook, or sign up for my email newsletter.
There is information at my web site: