Gareth gets magical in London


Our pal Gareth Branwyn says:

Anybody who's been a captive audience of mine for more than a few minutes recently probably knows that I'm writing a novel. I've also mentioned it here on Boing Boing and elsewhere. It explores occult themes and has a main character who's obsessed with the idea of using modern multimedia technologies and ancient ritual techniques to create a theater experience that seriously alters the consciousness of her audience members. She was inspired by Aleister Crowley's attempt at doing ceremonial magick in a theatrical context in his 1910 Rites of Eleusis performances. As part of my research, I've looked at what other people have done in this area of mixing music, theater, ritual and magick. Sadly, most of it is horrible. Cringeworthy. Over time, certain people have captured and sustained my interest, people who seem to be exploring these ideas with a certain degree of rigor, and ya know, talent. And to my surprise and delight, it looks like they've all been rounded up and invited to The Equinox Festival in London the second weekend in June.

One of the multimedia artists working in this realm of ritual performance art and film is Raymond Salvatore Harmon. He can soon add festival organizing to his resume, as he's the man behind the Festival (along with Simon Kane, co-curator of The Salon performance events (with Jack Sargeant), and Andrew Hartwell, proprietor of Aurora Borealis records). Although it's a full-featured occult conference/festival, with an impressive roster of speakers, because it's organized by a multimedia artist, it's the music, film and performances that are unique and most interesting. Any of these program tracks would be worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned. And as you'd expect, all of the performers concern themselves with occult/spiritual themes in their work. Some of the music includes: John Zorn, Z'ev, Burial Hex, TAGC (with Clock DVA's Adi Newton) and Æthenor. The festival will also see the return of the highly influential British prog folk group Comus, regrouping after a 37 year absence. They'll be performing their album "First Utterance" in its entirety. Closing the festival with be Peter Christopherson, of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, performing under his new moniker, Threshold House Boys Choir. The film track of the festival includes showings of Craig Baldwin's Mock Up On Mu, Paola Igliori's American Magus and The Seed of Joy, Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic, Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, Maya Deren's Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, The Mindscape of Alan Moore, Ira Cohen's Kings with Straw Mats and Raymond's film YHVH.Speakers at the event include Boing Boing pal Erik Davis, psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, chaos magician Philip Farber, Voudon Gnosis author David Beth, and Aaron Gach who readers of Arthur magazine will recognize as one of the lovable weirdos behind the Center for Tactical Magic.

200905281240 One of the other things that first caught my eye about this festival was the name Equinox, the subtitle, "A Festival of Scientific Illuminism," and its motto: "The Method of Science, The Aim of Religion." These are all Crowley references. The name of his magazine was The Equinox and it was subtitled "The Review of Scientific Illuminism" and that was its motto. It was this attempt at bringing even a moderate veneer of scientific rigor to spiritual investigation that first attracted me to Crowley (and to subsequent "followers" of his work, such as Robert Anton Wilson). I'm very anxious to see how much of that is in evidence here. It's certainly refreshing and different to at least see a summer music and arts festival that's not just about getting fucked up and flopping around in the mud (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you).

The Equinox Festival runs from June 12, 13, 14 and will be held at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London. The Friday night opening event will be at Camden Centre, Bidborough Street. I'll be doing several dispatches for Boing Boing from the Festival, and look forward to talking to Raymond and some of the other artists, speakers and attendees. So, stay tuned...

I'm also going to London to see a once-in-a-lifetime William Blake exhibit. The Tate is recreating his 1809 one-man show, mounted exactly 200 years ago. They've reunited all of the paintings that Blake had in the show. The show was a disaster and got savaged in the only review he received; the show was basically ignored by the public. The whole experience embittered Blake even more and made him withdraw further from public life. In my piece about Blake in MAKE, Volume 17, I talked about his invention of "illuminated printing," a then-radical technique for freeform relief-etching. This show features work done using another technique he invented which was far less successful, called "fresco painting," created with a mixture of tempera paint and carpenter's glue. Tragically, the materials used did not age well and those paintings that have survived are cracked and darkened. It'll be interesting to see the paintings done in this method up close and personal.



  1. I’m going to start doing magikal rituals right now to insure that Gareth’s new book cover is awesome. I know the book itself will be.


  2. Reminds me of something I’m working on. My main character is a skeptic who figures out that magic is actually a physics hack and after studying it properly becomes particularly adept at it.

    That’s not the plot, obviously, just a bit of a description of the main character.

  3. All this talk about Crowley and the multimedia efforts he inspired, and no mention of Kenneth Anger, one of Crowley’s most inspired disciples?

    His movies, including (but not limited to) Lucifer Rising and its truncated first effort, Invocation Of My Demon Brother, are rife with Crowley references and inspirations. That Anger is not a part of this event seems to me a gross oversight.

  4. Argh! Dammit! I wish I was there. But where’s Alan Moore?

    The Blake show at the Tate sounds fantastic. You’ll love it. Me and some friends saw a great show there a couple of years ago, with Blake, Henry Fuseli and James Gillray. Gillray’s cartoons were brilliant and the direct ancestor of Steve Bell (in the Grauniad). Shame Gillray was a Conservative.

  5. concerning Alan Moore’s whereabouts, i would check in Northampton… but as he is rarely inclined to grant an audience with his adoring fans, i think that he would generally prefer that you read his interviews:
    (although if you’re particularly considerate & actually want to carry on intelligent discourse with him, i believe that he has been known to carry on written correspondence with select individuals)

    and where is Kenneth Anger?
    …with an installation currently @ NYC’s P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center:

    if they’re going to display Harry Smith’s work, they should contact his close collaborator M. Henry Jones:
    …who has continued to screen a florilegium of Smith’s films put together in the manner intended by Smith – as performances – using stroboscopic effects, multiple projections, magic lanterns, and the like… under the title, “Harry Smith: A Re-creation” (which I was fortunate enough to attend @ Scottish Rite Theater here in Austin back in 1999)

    I have to admit a certain affinity for these sorts of things, myself… i recently completed this grant proposal:
    The CAVE (Collaborative Audio-Visual Environment)
    …a project which has grown from similar roots:

    PS it should be noted that what Blake created was *a new kind of fresco*
    “…which would be applied, not directly to the plaster on the wall, but to the canvas stretched over the plaster, so that they could be taken off and changed at pleasure…”

  6. the only obvious omission i can think of is anterro alli who does a lot of work with ritual, magick and theatre.

    this looks so good i think a jump across the pond is in order…

  7. If other BBers come, we should definitely arrange a meet up. Email me at my full name

    And yes, I thought it would be clear, but aethyrflux made it explicit — Blake’s technique was an attempt at bringing fresco to the canvas. And his ill-fated 1809 show was his attempt at introducing this “portable fresco” technique to the world.

  8. surprisingly intellegent discourse on the comments page as well which is well odd,for you tube.

  9. AETHYRFLUX, thanks for mentioning Henry Jones: he’s a friend of mine from my NYC days, and I helped him put on a few Harry Smith shows. He has a lot of Harry’s old equipment (the magic lanterns are amazing) and film stock/slides, as well as a few crazy Harry stories.

    Gareth, if you have any interest in Harry Smith, you should contact Henry, or even drop by his EV studio. He’s got the full setup for doing Heaven and Earth Magic, among others, and you may even convince him to break it all out for a show!


  10. Wow, Gareth, that sounds so amazing! I’m excited for you going and looking forward to reading your reports!

  11. @star35
    As I said in the piece, the reference to Equinox here is not to vernal Equinox, but to the title of Crowley’s journal, The Equinox. And it, in turn, was a reference to what Crowley called The Equinox of the Gods, or the transition from one age (Aeon) to another.

  12. I’m here in London for the Festival. Woot. If other happy mutants (or mutations of ant kind) are here and want to hook up, email my full name (no space) at

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