The London Occult Conference happened on Saturday. The person who ran it has all the organisational skills of a baboon. I should know; I spent six months living with him and resisting the temptation to put daffodil bulbs in his salad. But the event went on, at least publicly, without any major problems. For all guest speakers and traders, I am delighted that it went so well.
Electrowerks was a perfect venue for the Conference, but I’ll never get used to seeing it during daylight hours, when I’m able to walk through the place without stumbling over piles of lobotomised goths and staring at myself in the mirror mumbling about how I’m going to regret this in the morning. The building is comprised of several rooms, each as gloomy and crumbly as the next. The scene is imbued with a perpetual twilight, apart from the bar area downstairs where the unforgiving skylight hangs overhead, seemingly with no respect for month-old roots and dodgy contouring.
Let’s start with the market stalls. All my favourites were there. Ella Guru’s paintings blow me away with their humour and beauty every time. I picked up a couple of dried crows’ feet from Curiosities From the 5th Corner, who are always at these events, tables piled high with human bones, stuffed alligators and abject taxidermy. I also had the pleasure of meeting the girls from Strega Craft, who sell animal skulls set in ornate black frames. I had not seen Phil Barrington’s work before and I enjoyed the socio—politically-charged surrealism of his photography. And it’s always a pleasure to see the subgenius of Praeterlimina selling their cutting zines and beautiful rune charms.
My favourite lecture was given by Josephine McCarthy, a woman whose life has been as rich and full as her writing would suggest. One can often only write like McCarthy after realising the futility of flowery bullshit. Her lecture was about the mechanics of magic. She describes magical tradition as a ‘lampshade’ and uses this metaphor to explain that what we should acknowledge as practitioners is that the style of lampshade is not important, because behind it, the inner workings are essentially the same – in fact, behind THAT, the ‘electricity’ is identical and from the same source.
She got right to the core of practice without the need for categorising or comparing. I found it fascinating, because McCarthy confirmed a few nagging theories and suspicions I had and simultaneously birthed a hundred new questions for me to think about. This is what a good teacher does. It got me thinking further about the nature of my practice and some of the high strangeness I’d experienced, so I am even more inclined now to set about answering these questions.
A few weeks ago, I was in bed, asleep. The number 74 came crashing into my head like a burglar. I know the difference between dreams, visions and messages. At the time, the number 74 held no importance for me, but there it was, flashing in my brain as if someone else had put it there. It only lasted a few seconds. I woke up immediately, started fumbling around and wrote it down. In her lecture McCarthy said that if you miss an important hint, the universe will shake you up and down by the ears until you see it. So although I have not entirely explained the significance of the number 74, the methodology of its imposition into my head is something I am now very clear on.
McCarthy compared the variation in people’s receptivity to magickal influences to the difference between conductive and non-conductive materials. If you connect a power source to a copper plate, the electrons are free to fly around and pass on the charge. If you connect the power source to a block of wood, that electricity is just going to stop there and maybe even do some damage if the voltage is high enough. Think of lightening striking a tree and shattering it. Don’t forget your astral condom.
Personally, it makes me think about some of the things I’ve done in the past and feel rather lucky that I followed some of the rules for once, because that probably prevented me from harm. It also raises the question of why I seem to be so ‘conductive’. Between the ages of 11 and 16, I didn’t have a great deal of friends at school, so instead I would read in the library. I picked up my first book on Greek mythology in 7th Grade and suddenly I didn’t care about having human friends. I wanted to talk to monsters, heroes and Gods. So perhaps during these formative years, I was unwittingly rewiring myself, producing effects in my psyche which would not become clear or relevant for years to come. Kudos, past Foxy. Good lad.
As a result, I grew up creating characters, interpreting my dreams and staring up at the night sky. It goes a long way to explaining why when I first read about entity creation, it was more like remembering than learning and why I am so at ease with Tarot, despite only picking up my first deck less than a year ago. Like the crepuscular passageways of the Electrowerks building, my journey through magic has taken so many twists and turns. Just when I think i’ve got the hang of it, along comes something to knock me sideways, or to make me smile in realisation.
Time to go and formulate some questions and answers for myself. Utterances to all who have made me think and rethink, for better and for worse.