Guest Speakers at Texts & Traditions Colloquium
Remedios Varo: Bruja with a Brush
Throughout the mid-20th century, surrealist artist Remedios Varo created paintings and other artworks that were steeped in magic. As a Spanish refugee living in Mexico City, she crafted her own visual world that blended together imagery from witchcraft, Western esotericism, alchemy, biology, and mythology. Many of her depictions were drawn from her own experiments with the occult, which she engaged in alongside her dear friend – and a tremendous artist in her own right – Leonora Carrington. As Varo developed her own painted corpus of mystical inquiry, she blurred the line between artist and witch. Please join Pam Grossman for a special, image-rich presentation celebrating the enchanting art of this singular painter.
Pam Grossman is the creator and host of The Witch Wave podcast and the author of Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power (Gallery Books) and What Is A Witch (Tin Can Forest Press). She is co-founder of the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU, and her art exhibitions and magical projects have been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, and The New Yorker. Her writing has appeared in such outlets as Sabat Magazine, HuffPost, and her occulture blog, Phantasmaphile. You can find her at PamGrossman.com and @Phantasmaphile.
Mark of the Beast
The Flora of Dragons and Snakes
The connection between certain plants and animals in folklore is generally quite rare, however there exists a small body of lore that entwins the serpent with particular trees and plants. An extrapolation upon that lore carries over to dragons and their verdant allies. The reasons for these associations are varied; some include ancient mythologies, some the power of the cure, some the suggestive plant signature. This lecture will provide not only a sampler of the lore and its possible significance, but also bring personal anecdotes related to both plants and snakes from a practitioner’s interest and view point. Materia magica will be emphasized in this wise. The specific link between serpentine creature and plant spirit enhances qualities both fiery and chthonic in the nature of ones magical workings.
Corinne Boyer is a folk herbalist, teacher, and writer with a passion for traditions surrounding plants and folk magic. She has been studying and working with plants since 1998. Corinne has taught community herb classes since 2005 and teaches weekly classes out of her home with a focus on wild crafting, medicine making, plant lore, folk medicine and traditional magic. She has been published in various journals with articles about plant lore and history. She created a free quarterly herbal newsletter called The Gathering Basket, which was distributed to her local community from 2012-2017. Her books include Under the Witching Tree published by Troy Books and Plants of the Devil published by Three Hands Press. Under the Bramble Arch is near completion and will be released by Troy Books in early 2019. She lives with her family in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Visit her website for more information at www.maplemistwood.com
Robert C. Stein
Cosmic evolution and Initiation
Tarot trump images are indexed using Hebrew letters, each Tarot card represents a path or archetype and each is a focal point for meditation and learning.
Liber Arcanorum (Thelema, Liber 231) presents the mercuric (light) and qliphothic (dark) aspects of each path through symbol and text. Their contrast refines the message. A new set of original drawings for the paths emphasizes universality.
Robert C Stein
Professor Emeritus of Biology has been a Student of Thelema since 1982 with an emphasis on Class A literature. He travels to study nature and to experience sacred places. He is the author of Liber DCLXXI vel Troa vel Pyramidos with commentary, The Mystery of the Letters and the Tree of Life and many articles on Thelema.
The Poetics of Mystical Experience
Published in 2019, Ascend Ascend was written over the course of twenty days coming in and out of trance states brought on by intermittent fasting and somatic rituals while secluded in the tower of a 19th century church. The book-length poem is rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition of Hekhalot literature, which chronicles an ascent up the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to witness the "chariot of God." Through this work and other related texts we will discuss how literature functions as a valid vessel for mystical experience, as well as how the mechanics of mystical literature can lead beyond semantic values to induce a suspension of consciousness—in turn offering an induction into the same transformational conditions that they document.
Janaka Stucky is a mystic poet, performer, and founding editor of the award-winning press Black Ocean. He is the author of four poetry collections, including Ascend Ascend, which was published in 2019 by musician Jack White's Third Man Books in the U.S., as well as in a limited, illustrated edition by Fulgur Press in the UK. He is a two-time National Haiku Champion, and has taught or performed in over 60 cities around the world. You can learn more about him and his work, as well as find dates on upcoming ritual performances at janakastucky.com.
The Visionary Practice of Hilma af Klint
Description: Virtually unknown until decades after her death, the Swedish medium and painter Hilma af Klint was just the subject of a massive retrospective at the Guggenheim. Central to af Klint's process was the practice of Spiritualism, an interest in Theosophy, and an enthusiasm for the scientific discoveries of the early 20th century.This lecture will introduce af Klint's profoundly innovative visual art in its historical context.
Bio: Emily Pothast is a visual artist, musician, writer, and curator whose research-based practice interrogates overlapping histories of media, politics, and belief. Her writing has appeared in The Wire Magazine, Art in America, and Art Practical. This fall, she is beginning work on a PhD in Art and Religion at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.
The Soror Mystica
Partnership in Alchemical Practice
In the history of alchemy and in the stories of transmutations we come across the Soror Mystica – the mystical sister – the partner with whom the work is done. This exploratory talk will look at several famous alchemical partnerships to come to an understanding of the nature of this relationship and perhaps define it. To this end, attempting to leave behind what we think we know, we will draw directly from the texts and images of the 4th century Alexandrian alchemists Zosimos and Theosebia; the French medieval pair Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel; the alchemical couple depicted in the Mutus Liber; and the 17th century English alchemists Thomas and Rebecca Vaughan. From here we’ll consider other creative artistic partnerships in an alchemical light, developing the idea that this type of work is not an ordinary collaboration but a work that goes beyond what either individual could achieve alone – a working idea that could be used in our alchemical, artistic, mystic practice.
Brian Cotnoir is an alchemist, artist, and filmmaker. A contributor to Frater Albertus’ Parachemy, he is also the author of a series of Alchemy Zines. His books include Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter, The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy, Alchemical Meditations, On the Quintessence of Wine, and the Emerald Tablet, his translations of and commentary on, the earliest Arabic and Latin versions of this seminal text. His Emerald Tablet was part of the Language of the Birds: Occult and Art show in 2016 in New York City. An alchemical composition of his “Egonomen nekros,” was part of the 2018 exhibition at Green-Wood Cemetery, The Power of Image: Life, Death, and Rebirth.
He occasionally gives talks and has presented workshops and seminars around the world on various aspects of alchemical theory and practice based on his research.
His film work has been screened at Museum of Modern Art, Sundance Film Festival, HBO, PBS and other international venues.
Khepri Press, launched in 2014 with the publication of the Emerald Tablet, is the vehicle and portal for his alchemical work.
Reading Jung's Red Book
as a Dream Magick Grimoire
In late 1913, shortly after his break from Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung began a series of internalized psychological journeys. These "confrontations with the unconscious" were transcribed by Jung in a red leather-bound book, along with ornate calligraphy and complex and evocative paintings, becoming an evocation of a technique he called "active imagination."
If magical practice may be defined as the "Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions," as well as being the "Art of applying that understanding in action," then the psychological techniques of self-actualization as described by the Red Book are Dream Magick. The Red Book is a grimoire that can be used to bring about a metaphysical transformation, and its place within the greater historical context of alchemical experiments, magical workings, and esoteric undertakings will be examined in this presentation.
Mark Teppo is an author, editor, publisher, and bookseller. His non-linear novel, The Potemkin Mosaic, is an oneiromantic meta-narrative about identity. His publishing imprint, Underland Press, is producing a series of themed anthologies based on the tarot. The first one was XIII; the next one will be XVIII.
Manon Hedenborg White
The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Meaning of Femininity in Esotericism
In the stereotypical dichotomy of Madonna and whore, it is the virgin who is more often seen as the feminine ideal. In a radical turn, Aleister Crowley reversed this binary, promoting free sexuality and celebrating the whore in the form of the goddess Babalon. Based on a positive counter-reading of the Whore of Babylon from the Book of Revelation (17), the Thelemic Babalon symbolizes passionate union with the all–the destruction of the individual ego that is required to survive the initiatory ordeal of crossing the Abyss. Her human avatar, the Scarlet Woman, is the quintessential, sexually liberated and powerful woman of the new aeon. Over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries, Thelemites and other esotericists–and, increasingly, women and LGBTQ practitioners–have engaged with Babalon in novel ways, often with a critical eye toward Crowley’s teachings. These practitioners explore the meaning of femininity and feminine embodiment, but also navigate the link between eroticism and undoing in profound ways. Based on her PhD research and forthcoming book The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism, Dr. Manon Hedenborg White will explore the past, present, and future of Babalon as an image of divine femininity that challenges limiting views of femininity, womanhood, and sexuality.
Manon Hedenborg White obtained her PhD in the History of Religions at Uppsala University in 2017. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Södertörn University, and a guest scholar at the Center for Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. Her book The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism (due in 2019 from Oxford University Press) analyzes interpretations of the Thelemic goddess Babalon from the fin-de-siècle until today. She has also published several peer-review articles on different aspects of Western esotericism, occultism, contemporary spirituality, and gender. Manon’s postdoctoral research, funded by the Swedish Research Council, analyzes the historical roles of women in twentieth-century Thelema.
Lurking at the Threshold
Finding Enchantment Beyond Belief
The challenge of writing about the supernatural and the occult is that one is assumed either to be a believer or a debunker. Using examples from his recent books, Peter Bebergal examines how authentic states of enchantment can exist beyond the debate of true or false. Bebergal has learned that allowing ourselves to exist--if only momentarily--in a state of enchantment is a much more interesting place to be. In the ambiguous and the liminal deep wells of meaning can be found and is where the use of magic is an important tool to activate the imagination. At the threshold is the possibility of enchantment as a creative and psychological experience that is immune to religious fundamentalism and and hardened atheism.
Peter Bebergal writes widely on the speculative and slightly fringe. His essays and reviews have appeared in NewYorker.com, The Times Literary Supplement, Boing Boing, The Believer, and The Quietus. He is the author of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll; Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood, and The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God (with Scott Korb). Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Psychedelics and Modern Occulture
In this presentation Julian Vayne will explore the interface between drugs and magic in the recent history of Western Esoteric culture. From the instinctive shamanism of Aleister Crowley through to the use of psychedelic drugs within late 20th century Chaos Magic. Julian's presentation will blend historical research and personal narrative; examining the impact of psychedelic substances on wider culture alongside first-hand tales from the cutting edge of the current Psychedelic Renaissance. Julian will also be asking what insights and skills occultists can bring to these emerging discourses, and considering the ethical, political and environmental impact of entheogenic practice.
Julian Vayne is a British occultist with over three decades of experience of esoteric culture: from Druidry to Chaos Magick, from indigenous American shamanism through to Freemasonry and Wicca. During this time Julian has written for numerous underground esoteric journals, edited 'zines, contributed to various collections of essays, led workshops, retreats and facilitated a wide range of group ceremonies. Julian is a founding member of the post-prohibitionist think tank Transform Drugs Policy Foundation and Chair of The Friends of The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic. A regular speaker at conferences on the subject of contemporary occultism, magic and altered states he is also a cultural educator and in that capacity is the author of Wonderful Things: Learning with Museum Objects. Julian is the leading contributor to theblogofbaphomet.com and author of the much celebrated Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony. He sits on the academic editorial board of the Journal of Psychedelic Studies and is part of the team who produce Breaking Convention, Europe's largest conference on psychedelic consciousness, at The University of Greenwich, London.
TO RECEIVE Art Exhibition
Esoteric traditions are built around the belief of an interaction between the individual and the divine. Over the ages, spiritual adepts, philosophers, and artists devoted their lives to this transcendental relationship in order to receive blessings, wisdom, and inspiration. Through invocation, the creative process is a manifested act of communion with the intangible.
Influenced by Jungian psychology and mythology, Travis Lawrence uses the art of printmaking to create illustrious allegorical imagery. Reinterpreting medieval alchemical manuscripts and illuminations, each symbolic print appears to be an excerpt of narration filled with mystery and metaphor. The viewer is invited to explore the content of these hand-painted prints through a contemplative interaction with the represented archetypes.
Travis resides in the Midwest where he was born and raised. Having a religious upbringing opened his perspective to the interaction with ideas greater than and/or within oneself. He utilizes the art of creation as an act of opening doorways and manifesting these ideas through symbol and metaphor. Similar to alchemy, Travis uses printmaking as a meditative procedure of transforming the mundane into a higher state.
Texts and Traditions Technologist
Joshua Madara is an occult technologist and computational media occultist who develops speculative artifacts that blend physical and metaphysical ontologies. He is especially interested in using symbolic machines to evoke non-symbolic experiences of occult entities. He is the author of Technomancy 101: Advanced Cybermagic for Beginners, and is currently working on a book about doing magic with robots ("robomancy"). Joshua is a devout chaos magician and member of the Illuminates of Thanateros.
Texts and Traditions Hostess
Melissa Gonzales is a long time resident of Seattle with Native American roots in the SW which include ancestral ties to the NE region of Mexico. Her current esoteric studies and practice includes Hermetic Qabalah, yoga, tarot, ritual, symbolism, astrology, herbalism and animism. She enjoys opportunities exploring archaeological sites, seeing where these studies may connect. She is an event coordinator, has assisted with astrology retreats in the Yucatan, is a certified Reiki practitioner, end of life doula, and yoga teacher, whom implements the use of sound and alchemy into her energy work, while weaving permaculture into her practice and garden. Her passion for literature plus uniting community has sprung up inspiration of the creation of Little Free Libraries around Seattle and within central California.
Texts and Traditions Host
William Kiesel is publisher at Ouroboros Press and the proprietor of Mortlake and Company Book Arte Gallery in Seattle. As curator and researcher Kiesel has presented in the US and abroad on the intriguing world of esoteric art and literature. His first book Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition was published by Three Hands Press.