We are delighted that Ellen Hausner has joined our team as Press and Publicity Officer. Ellen studied painting, drawing and printmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Student’s League in New York. Her work explores the ephemeral and the unseen, giving form to the forces of nature which cannot be visualised directly. Her esoteric interests include traditional witchcraft, the Golden Dawn, and Rosicrucianism. When not publicising various FULGUR projects, Ellen pursues her painting and works for the Bodleian Library, Oxford. She has previously worked at Oxford University Press; at Vattumannen Bokhandel, the central esoteric bookstore in Stockholm; and in the Alexander Calder Foundation archive in New York.
Dr Hereward Tilton has taught on Rosicrucianism, magic and alchemy in Renaissance and early modern Europe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the department for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, and the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism at the University of Exeter. Here he provides us with a brief introduction to his discoveries while translating the text of Touch Me Not!
Like a Bosch painting, the pages of Touch Me Not! – an Austrian manuscript compendium of the black magical arts – teem with a bizarre host of threatening, misshapen demons. Clad with feathers, scales and butterfly wings, they beat drums, spew fire and assault our sensibilities with their pendulous breasts and engorged genitalia, urinating, defecating and spawning yet more demons to devour any wretched soul unable to resist the temptation of the forbidden arts.
Thirty-five watercolour and ink images of demons, their sigils and the magicians who summon them illustrate the German and Latin text of the Wellcome Library’s Touch Me Not! A Most Rare Compendium of the Whole Magical Art. The manuscript was created circa 1795, and appears at first sight to be a ‘grimoire’ or magician’s manual intended for noviciates of black magic. Psychedelic drug use, animal sacrifice, sigillary body art, masturbation fantasy and the necromantic manipulation of gallows-corpses count among the transgressive procedures it depicts. With their aid hidden treasures are wrested from guardian spirits, and the black magician’s highest ambition – an infernal transfiguration and union with the Devil – can be fulfilled. But for those dilettantes who fail to follow the procedures to the letter, or succumb to their fears at lonely, Godforsaken sites in the dead of night, the consequences are dire.
Although it has been described as a Höllenzwang (‘coercion of hell’) manuscript, Touch Me Not! is only tangentially related to that early modern family of Clavicula Salomonis-derived treasure-hunting texts (Doctor Fausts großer und gewaltiger Höllenzwang, Das sechste und siebente Buch Mosis, etc.). For the historian pondering why and for whom it has been created, Touch Me Not! is not comparable to the kind of operative text one might find in the hands of a literate practitioner at a rustic treasure-hunting circle; rather, it resembles certain ornate derivatives of those earlier operative Höllenzwang manuscripts – elaborate works of artifice which are destined for the library shelves of rich gentlemen, and which employ beguiling artwork or an intentional antiquation of style and framing narrative in order to increase their market value.
With its Gothic aesthetic, Touch Me Not! is a work of supernatural horror resembling a practical manual yet designed – first and foremost – to titillate. Unlike most grimoires, the manuscript is a unicum with no close stemmatic relatives; its artificial nature contributes significantly to its historical value, as the act of selecting and compiling diverse textual fragments has created a unique portrait of the late eighteenth-century cultural memory of magic. And while much of the text is derived from print sources (von Eckartshausen, del Río, Agrippa) or well-known grimoires (Abramelin, Clavicula Salomonis), the origin of other passages remains obscure – witness the detailed instructions for the creation of a black magical mirror, for example, which appears to be a descendant of the medieval ‘mirror of Lilith’.
Beyond its purely historical value, there is much in this curious manuscript to entice and inspire the contemporary practitioner of magic. No doubt each reader will find an intriguing reflection of their experiences or interests therein; I discovered my own among its list of psychoactive fumigants, which includes an entry testifying to the magical employment of an indigenous European source of the hallucinogenic compound dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – the rhizome of the ubiquitous common reed (Phragmites australis). Following the advice of Herpentil, I made my way to a remote cave, reed rhizome and Syrian rue potions in hand, to explore the infernal realms and contemplate the distinction between white and black magic. This seems to be as fine as a spider’s silk, as our manuscript asserts. Anyone minded to attempt such perilous operations would do well to heed the salutary tale of the ‘Jena Christmas Eve tragedy’ of 1715: the horrific, hallucination-plagued deaths of magical treasure-hunters overcome by their own entheogenic fumigations, an event whose echoes still reverberate in the macabre illustrations of Touch Me Not!
Like the Abstract Expressionist movement that followed in its wake, Surrealism’s history has largely been written as a narrative of heroic transgressions committed by bad boys, which did no favors for the women involved in the movement. Even Surrealism’s most celebrated woman artists—Meret Oppenheim, whose “Breakfast in Fur” was the first objet acquired by MoMA, and Lee Miller, who moved on from Surrealism to become a celebrated photojournalist—are arguably as well or even better known as nude models for photos by Man Ray as for their own achievements.
Not only was that at work in ensuring that painter/poet Ithell Colquhoun remained an obscure figure, there’s her strong supernatural bent. Surrealism’s interest in automatism in writing and drawing was held in service of suppressing the discipline of the conscious mind in order to develop the unconscious, triggering creativity-enhancing states. But Colquhoun used Surrealism’s methods in service of Hermeticism. She sought not merely the unconscious, but the mystical and transcendent. This pursuit led to her ouster from the official English Surrealist group in 1940. She continued to paint, eschewing her early representational style in favor of increasing automatism, and she increased her involvement in the occult, participating in the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Golden Dawn splinter group Stella Matutina. [more]
Seeking the Marvellous – Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism
22nd and 23rd March 2018, Plymouth
Call for papers – deadline 31st May, 2017
Seeking the Marvellous is a two-day interdisciplinary symposium that will examine the work of Ithell Colquhoun (1906 – 1988) and other women connected both with Surrealism and with Britain. It is organised by Plymouth College of Art in partnership with the Black Mirror research network and will be held in Plymouth on 22nd and 23rd March 2018.
During her lifetime, Colquhoun was widely respected, both as an artist and an occultist but since her death her oeuvre has been largely lost from public view. Her intellectual and artistic contributions to Surrealism and to British modernism and occultism have seen some scholarly attention, but hardly any extensive investigation. This symposium seeks to re-examine Colquhoun and her place in art history and in the history of occultism from a variety of perspectives. We are also interested in papers on other female artists connected with Surrealism in Britain; these might include Eileen Agar, Valentin Penrose and Leonora Carrington to name but a few. “British” might also include those who lived or worked in Britain as well as those with British nationality. In all cases, emphasis consideration should be paid to the polyvalent dialogues enacted between women artists and Surrealism in the British and/ or other national contexts. Our time frame is 1900 – 1980 and we welcome contributions on the visual and performative arts including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, design, fashion, theatre, dance and music. We are especially interested in work which examines the connections between artists and the magical or the occult, and/ or in women who were prominent figures during their lifetimes but whose work and reputations have become obscured or occulted since their deaths. We welcome papers from all disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds, including gender and queer theory and postcolonial approaches.
The symposium will be held in Plymouth, close to Cornwall where Colquhoun lived and worked for much of her life. We hope to include new local documentary material about Colquhoun.
Keynote speakers will include renowned international experts Susan Aberth and Victoria Ferentinou.
Please send abstracts of not more than 400 words by 31st may 2017 to Judith Noble; email@example.com. Include the following details: name and surname, affiliation, contact email address, and a short biography, including details of most recent publications.
Conference Organising Committee
Associate Professor Judith Noble (Plymouth College of Art)
Dr. Tessel M. Bauduin (University of Amsterdam)
Assistant Professor Victoria Ferentinou (University of Ioannina)
Dr. Kristoffer Noheden (Stockholm University)
Associate Professor Dominic Shepherd (Arts University Bournemouth)
Tilly Craig, Conference Assistant
We are delighted to announce that Ithell Colquhoun’s Decad of Intelligence is now available to pre-order. In celebration, we offer here the first of two films; a short documentary that introduces her life and art. Our thanks to Nendie and Mark for their enthusiasm and dedication in bringing this material to light.
On the evening of December 16th, 2016, the inaugural performance of Ithell Colquhoun’s Decad of Intelligence echoed through the vast and visceral working space of the Slade Research Centre, London. We had planned the event to mark the first publication of the work (due for release with FULGUR in February 2017), but also to celebrate the life and work of the much neglected artist, who studied at the Slade in the late 1920s. The performance was prefaced by a short introduction by Robert Ansell, followed by an overview of Ithell Colquhoun’s life and work by Dr Amy Hale, with an especial focus on the Decad itself.
fig.1: Publisher Robert Ansell introduces the event, © copyright FULGUR, 2016
The Decad of Intelligence is an important and poetic work that Colquhoun developed in the 1970s. It is based on the list of sephirotic intelligences set out in the Sepher Yetzirah. Originally, it was conceived to be a small book of ten enamel pieces, each depicting a different sephira and accompanied by a description of their properties. Colquhoun intended this work to be used as a guide to contemplation for understanding the deep nature of each of the sephiroth, both in isolation and in completeness. Working with the National Trust, the Tate and the Estate of Ithell Colquhoun, we have reunited these individual elements to reform the work as the artist originally envisaged it.
The sparse, rich qualities of the work suggested it had been distilled by Colquhoun from decades of experience, but it also gave a rare voice to a feminine interpretation of the Sepher Yetzirah. With the full support of The Slade School of Fine Art, we began to make plans for presenting the material as a ritual performance: a fusion of art and esoteric practice.
fig.2: The ritual space with ten flames, © copyright Amy Hale, 2016
Caroline Wise kindly stepped forward to help orchestrate a group of women who might speak with the distinct voices needed for each of the sephirotic intelligences. Gradually the cast began to take shape: Amodali (Kether), Emma Doeve (Chokmah), Caroline Wise (Binah), Gemma Gary (Chesed), Lizzie Conrad (Geburah), Ruth Bayer (Tiphareth), Suzanne Corbie (Netzach), Rebecca Beattie (Hod), Fleur Shearman (Iesod) and Ellen Hausner (Malkuth). Amy Hale introduced each performer and Shamana Prideaux-Brune (who designed the book) punctuated each reading with banishing cymbals.
fig.3: Robert Ansell discusses the media co-ordination with the performers, © copyright Matthew Levi Stevens/WhollyBooks, 2016
The announcement of the event prompted a surge in interest and the 150 tickets were fully allocated within three days of the initial release. On the night, we faced a full house and extra seating was created by employing student lockers, turned sideways. Amid the flickering candles and the large projected images of Ithell at work there was a sense of collective anticipation. One of those present was Richard Shillitoe, a long-time champion for the artist and the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature. Other attendees included journalists, artists and members of the Slade faculty.
After some rehearsals with a vast projected Ithell looking out over us, the audience was treated to a spell-binding and evocative series of readings. Each performer stepped forward into the circle while behind them was projected a towering image of each sephirotic enamel, the colours blending and playing out over the figures standing one-by-one in the flickering circle. Each voice was different. Each moment unique, yet connected.
fig.4: Ruth Bayer and Rebecca Beattie rehearse, while Lizzie Conrad and others look on © copyright FULGUR, 2016.
fig.5: The performers [L-R] Gemma Gary, Suzanne Corbie, Ruth Bayer, Ellen Hausner, Caroline Wise, Emma Doeve, Lizzie Conrad, Rebecca Beattie, Amy Hale, © copyright FULGUR, 2016. Amodali and Fleur Shearman will be restored to this wonderful line-up in the video edit, due for release in late January.
We would like to express our thanks to our performers, who made time for this event in the busy run-up to Christmas. To Amodali, Emma, Caroline, Gemma, Lizzie, Ruth, Suzanne, Rebecca, Fleur and Ellen… your inspirational voices were heard. And an especial thank you to Caroline, who took time during a difficult period to ensure the evening ran smoothly. Also a big thank you to Kristabel and Robert, for providing such warm hospitality for all those attending. For Tomas, Mark, Nendie and Nadine; our thanks and appreciation for your professionalism in documenting this important event. To Richard Shillitoe, for providing the images of Ithell that offered us an evocative backdrop to the preliminaries. And to David and UCL, for their full support in making this event possible.
A full video documentation will be uploaded on our blog in early February.
Ithell Colquhoun: Decad of Intelligence is due for release in February 2017
We will be dispatching all pre-orders for Michael Bertiaux’s long awaited book Ontological Graffiti in mid-January, 2017. Currently we are waiting on the bulk of the stock to arrive from the printer. Those of you who have taken advantage of the discounted pre-order price and special postal rates for this title will receive an automated email notification that your order is on the way.
Those of you waiting for the announcement of the deluxe issue will be pleased to hear that we will open the pre-orders in early January. We can here confirm the rumours that every copy sold will include a piece of original art by Michael Bertiaux that deals with his expression of a specific spirit entity.
We are delighted to announce the launch event for Ithell Colquhoun’s Decad of Intelligence, host by The Slade School of Fine Art, London. It’s something of an historic return for Colquhoun, who studied art at the Slade in the late 1920s. The event will be held in the Slade Research Centre Studios in Woburn Square; a vast and visceral working space secreted above the Warburg Institute.
The evening will comprise of a short presentation from Dr Amy Hale, outlining Colquhoun’s life and work. This will be followed by a complete reading of Colquhoun’s evocative and poetic text for Decad of Intelligence from ten artist-practitioner women. Colquhoun’s extraordinary images will provide a projected backdrop. This event represents the first public reading and performance of this important magical text.
Friday 16th December, 2016
Slade Research Centre
16 Woburn Square
The event is FREE, but we are expecting significant numbers, so ticket-only entry via Eventbrite. (NOW SOLD OUT)
We are delighted to report there will be simultaneous launch parties for Michael Bertiaux’s magnum opus Ontological Graffiti in both London and Chicago on December 3rd, 2016.
Treadwells Bookshop, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London
Michael Bertiaux via LIVE WEBCAM*
The Occult Bookstore, 1164 Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
Ariock Van de Voorde
Hagen von Tulien
Performance by Kindle
We are delighted to announce the publication of Michael P. Bertiaux’s long-awaited magnum opus, Ontological Graffiti. This extraordinary book is the most ambitious title we have yet offered, running to over 480 pages. It is profusely illustrated.
We will be announcing the deluxe for this title later in the autumn. It will be very limited. N.B. Postage for both editions will be optimised for those customers who also later buy a deluxe.
Ontological Graffiti is being offered to you at a discount of 20% for all orders received prior to the publication date of December 3rd. We hope this will help those of you working to a budget.
We are able to offer you free UK postage for this item. Overseas orders will also benefit from a reduced postage rate. At nearly 3kg… this is a monster of a book, your mail service will groan!
On December 3rd there will be a dual international launch for Ontological Graffiti in both London and Chicago. Full details will be released shortly.
Psychoanalysis, Art and the Occult. A Three Day Conference curated by Vanessa Sinclair and Carl Abrahamsson
Candid Arts, 3 Torrens Street, EC1V 1NQ, London | May 6th-8th, 2016
In 1953, psychoanalyst and anthropologist George Devereux published a collection of works from various psychoanalysts entitled Psychoanalysis and the Occult, which explored the intersection between the practice of psychoanalysis and occult phenomena, including contributions from Freud himself on ‘Premonitions and Chance’, ‘Psychoanalysis and Telepathy’, and ‘The Occult Significance of Dreams’. Additionally, Freud’s paper ‘Notes on the Unconscious’ was published in the journal of the Society for Psychical Research in 1912. Since that time, however, the majority of psychoanalysts willing to traverse occult terrain have worked within a Jungian framework, as the topic itself was central to the split between Freud and Jung, with the former insisting the burgeoning field of psychoanalysis be scientific and not spiritualist. However, Freud maintained an interest in occult phenomena longer than many of his followers would like to believe, and the time has come to explore this aspect of his work further.
Until now, the intersection of psychoanalysis and the occult has perhaps been most richly explored through the arts. Most well known are the Surrealists, who espoused Freud’s theories, and who were fascinated by the unconscious, dreams, synchronicity, automatic writing and chance encounters. These themes and methods are also featured in the work of the Symbolists, Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxists and Actionists, as well as in the work of avant-garde artists of our day.
The purpose of this conference is to bring together a diverse group of psychoanalysts, occultists and artists to share their views on human subjectivity and culture. Through an investigation of the unique modes and methodologies utilized by each individual practitioner, we may explore human experience via the convergence of domains that rarely speak to one another yet often work in similar and complementary ways.
We are delighted to announce Shamana Prideaux-Brune has joined the team at FULGUR. Shamana recently completed a Fine Art degree at Arts University Bournemouth. Her interests include photography, making books, getting muddy, shamanism and cocktails. Shamana will be working at the FULGUR offices in Somerset and will help expedite our publishing programme over the next few years. [Photo: Phoenix]
A personal note of thanks from Robert Ansell
The last few weeks have been some of the busiest we’ve ever seen here at Fulgur Esoterica, and with good reason. More than nine months in the planning, our first exhibition of esoteric artists – titled I:MAGE – had no less than five major objectives…
Several months ago I was approached by Avi Solomon, with an invitation to be interviewed for the famous blog, BoingBoing. He wanted to know something about talismanic books, and with BoingBoing attracting over 5 million unique visitors, how could I refuse? I am pleased to say the interview went live today.