‘Light in Darkness’
The Winter was long, cold and dark as the Devil’s cock. Quiet muffles of thought and icy reflections filled my days as wave after wind hit my little house in the woods. The light held in my heart was tended carefully, faint but true...only to be fanned into a consuming rage of black fire. Such was my experience over the weekend of the left hand path conference Black Flame PDX: Lux ex Tenebris. The shared experience in ‘occult philosophy, literature, performance and art’ spoke to the heretical heart and curious mind, challenging thoughts for evolving ideologies for all in attendance.
The opening ceremony was facilitated by a brilliant ritualist, merging chaos and animism into a hybrid of performance art and deep subconscious tapping. Arùn Joseph Ragan lead a procession through the secret building, located under a bridge...a liminal space of industrial coldness strong enough to contain the spiritual fires ignited. Handmade masks resembling hellish animals, yew and Ethiopian cumin strewn around the floor, a widdershins circumambulation of an obsidian circle .
Kindling the blaze within, our energy was carried over into another separate event at a bar across town; Wicker Man IV, included several performances by artists of dark folk music and enchanting revelry. The finale was an album release party for “One Curious Night” by locals Horse Cult...which was really fantastic, haunting and transcendent. The introduction to their set included a welcoming of Spring in invocational prose by Arùn and the lighting of a wicker man by Horse Cult member and co-organizer of Black Flame PDX, Amie Beckwith. Arùn as the Pooka, a creature of mischief and mirth from Irish fairy tradition, really embodied the spirit of the evening as a hilarious High Priest. The twisted and formed wicker man contained written petitions of destruction, sending away the things which no longer served participants.
On Saturn’s morning, bright and early, folk herbalist Corrine Boyer gave an incredibly rich and fascinating lecture, “The Graveyard as Sanctuary: The Witches’ Keep”. Sharing traditional taboos of historical and practical herbal cautions also brought to light the motivations of several approaches for both beneficial and baneful workings. Emphasizing on the lives of ancestors, both known and unknown, in burial grounds hints at the uses of acquired dirts or herbs; never to take flowers or fruits from the grounds. Also something many don’t probably think about, Boyer made mention of the desired effects being in alignment with the lives and deaths of cemetery spirits… the young are especially helpful as they bring the vibrancy of young life to an otherwise heavy necromantic current. I also appreciated how Boyer addressed issues I often see with those trying to work with the Dead: spending too much time with them can be detrimental for one’s health, both physically and emotionally. Making time for a question and answer session was especially helpful to me, as I am about to necromantically explore an especially old cemetary where once criminals were hanged...the tree is still standing.
The presentation given by Jack Grayle was surprising...although I cannot comment much on it being that I partially assisted him in a dramatic reading from The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus. Grayle shared ancient workings with the Dead, referencing many from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM). Especially gratifying was not only his adaption for modern ceremonial uses, but Grayle showed us. By including the attendees to evoke Hekate, the operation he shared included the graveyard dust from a young woman who was killed too early… drunk driving. Grayle transferred some dust into a reliquary locket and offered it to whomever agreed to care for the young spirit in a specific manner. While some participants left the room, or watched in earnest for a spectre glimpse, I kept my eyes shut and used other senses during the process. With the Dead I tend to smell and feel them in my gut; a queasy feeling comes over my whole body only to recess rather quickly, unless there is a horrible smell to accompany. This time I smelled flowers, sweet and sad; I saw the shadow rise up and halo around Grayle’s head only to dip into his waiting trinket. I sensed a love, for all the grief. Grayle is a wonderful, approachable and engaging speaker; in person as well as online.
Luciferian Witch and co-founder of the online store Luciferian Apotheca, Hopemarie Ford gave an outstanding lecture on defining Luciferianism and the history of it’s philosophy. It’s refreshing not only to see a woman presenting on Left Hand Path topics, but it was nice to define the parameters many could agree on. When it comes to spiritual practice there are so many genres and ways of description, it is helpful to get a discourse based in understood terms. Ford is a great speaker, seasoned with an especially pleasing voice. Her brief exploration of Luciferian leaning philosophy was stimulating and reminded me how much this particular path connects with my own political viewpoints; Libertarianism. The emphasis on self reliance, intellect over carnality, and a perspective of self-first in all motivations. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a young man at the Black Flame regarding just that: is doing charity work a selfish act? We do it because it makes us ‘feel good’ to do the thing, help someone else. It isn’t really out of compassion completely… and this was something I am still mulling over as I look at my own occupation, as Librarian.
The most intense and fascinating part of the entire weekend was listening to metaphysical engineer and master occultist Diabolus Rex. Rarely does one hear something so profound and bizarre...I hardly could process it all at once. A ‘viable source of exploitation’, Rex is building the Ragnarok Engine: a ship that houses an occult energy generator. A psychic satellite to harness and distribute occult power. You must forgive me, dear reader...I am very much NOT mechanically inclined. I admit it is a weakness in my intellect, and one which may fail in accurately reporting this fabulous presentation. I was transfixed, hanging on his every word as Rex explained the process and inspiration for building Ragnarok. His industrial style mirrored Rex’s love of welding, like an occult-inspired H.R. Giger. Whether his machine will blow a hole into another dimension (which would be totally awesome) or destroy this world (it’s inevitable), is hard to say. However, I must admit to a connection with Rex concerning the occult experiments conducted by the S.S, as I always thought Die Glocke, or ‘the Bell’, was a brilliant and terrifying experiment. But really how far fetched is it, especially considering advances in technology like the hadron collider?
Saturn’s Day finished with 2 separate and deep storytelling sessions. The first was Koyote the Blind, a returning philosopher I experienced at last year’s Flambeau Noir. Where last year Koyote’s telling was darker, this one was a message from the Earth, it seemed. The guided trance took us on a journey into the heart of our planet, to feel the hurts and see the future as it unfolded before, and will again.
The second tale told was at another location with a ritual performance by artist and Hekatean Sorcerer Orryelle Defenestrate. With strings and hir voice, Defenestrate related a telling of hir revelatory Book of the Spider; from Hekate Herself to the intimate attendees. There was a tension to the stillness… it built up with the story, the intensity of the music; I waited to finally feel the releasing ‘snap’ of Defenstrate’s web. But the ending was not a destructive break apart, only a hushed promise of connection...soft as a loose web spinning in the wind.
Sunday’s lineup was pleasantly Thelemic in its current, beginning with one of my favorite topics: Scarlet Women… and one in particular, who was little known to me: Leah Hersig. A thoroughly researched presentation, Michael Kolson of Night of Pan Books shared intimate letters, diary entries, commentaries and so much primary source material about this brilliant, and somewhat sad, occultist. One thing I always appreciate is what kind of women these were….who adored Mr. Crowley this much. Transgressive behavior and blasphemic rites are indeed catalysts of progression on the Left Hand Path. However, the feminist in me wonders what Hersig, and others like her, could have accomplished had they not been his tool of transformation. Even in Eastern traditions there are stories of consorts who became powerful in their own right. But on the other hand (left), Hersig held the true power of Babalon in her role as Muse. I can identify with that, as a woman who has been used over and over for inspiration. Always the one behind the success, not in the spotlight…it allows for true ego release in the serving, accompanied by openness for an accelerated transcendence, in my experience.
Michael W. Ford gave an inspiring, dark talk about his evolving tradition of Luciferian Magick; tying in apotheosis (Luciferian), ordeals (Thelemic) and illuminating the black flame (witchcraft). With the tools of Theurgy, ‘embracing chaos and primal instincts’, the witch gains access to underworld knowledge. Drawing upon Mesopotamian, Hellenistic and other Near Eastern examples from his own research, Ford always leaves listeners with more to explore when all is said and done.
The Temple of Set was a heavy presence this year as well, with well reception. Toby Chappell gave a thorough and intensive crash course on runes and how they relate according to the semiotic theory of magick and operative communication. This primal approach transcends culture, making it nominally antinomian and highly compatible with Left Hand Path philosophy. There was also a screening for Jessica Hall’s documentary film “Left Hand Path”, following Temple of Set priest and jewelry artist James C. Kirby through his processes.
The entire weekend of presentations built up, for me, to the ritual operation given to attendees by Catamara Rosarium, proprietor of long time favorite Rosarium Blends. Fellow devotee and initiate of Hekate, I was anxious to share in the experience of Rosarium’s “Hekate’s Crossroads”; an oracular ritual developed and practiced annually for 12 years by Rosarium. Attendees enjoyed a delicious pomegranate cordial and drew an epithet of Hekate, to be used as a mantra for a year. I was excited to receive ‘HEKATETAKEH’...a palindrome. The sonic power of invocation, aloud, is something many new practitioners tend to avoid but I have embraced since day one. Names of power, barbarous words, esoteric syllables strung together, only incoherent to the untrained ear, Rosarium didn’t disappoint. The epithets of Hekate we chanted, and in the presence of so many adepts, really added juice in Her presence. I look forward to any books or other materials Rosarium presents in the future, as her devotion and care in cultivating relationship with Hekate is painfully obvious and exhilarating in it’s freshness.
The closing ritual was a rather quick and intense releasing. Arùn came out masked again, in a farewell of fire and gifts of obsidian for all attendees. Later on at a small venue called The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, we were treated to ritual musical performances by Brujentropy, organizers for Black Flame PDX who are incredibly talented at giving an unnerving experience in a sonic delivery of fear and trepidation...for me, anyway. Season Cole is a tiny woman with the voice of a screaming banshee! Her power comes out as wings at her back, making Cole look ethereal, a spawned imp that could devour your soul. Her performance was not as angsty as last year’s which was indeed heavy. In fact, I rather enjoyed the journey of "Da'ath Becomes Her", with Gary Michael Parks, who also DJed with Michael Ford performing as Ahktya at the event. I was not familiar with Ford’s music;, except only what I had heard in snippets during lectures or videos. Let me say I was pleasantly surprised. More of a rock n’ roller than electronic music fan, I appreciated the occult overtone to their performance. It seemed a series of invocations, spirit conjurings accompanying sigils projected on a screen and true magickal transformation felt throughout the room, not just the circle Ford cast.
I was really tired and ready to go back to my hotel when I was talked into staying for one more round of Absinthe (a delicious cocktail called ‘Haint’) and witnessing the genius of L.V.X.N.O.X. next performer: Soriah. A Tuvan throat singer, I had heard this type of vocalizing before but have never heard it done live, in person. The power of Soriah’s voice permeated through the bodies of those all around me… I watched as we were all caught up in his spell. I couldn’t look away, except to watch the lights filter through stage smoke giving my chemically enhanced eyes a better view of the magick. I swayed, gulped in the multiple chords Soriah simultaneously gathered together, forming a perfect pitch to make my heart chakra explode. Truly, I was standing there afraid of dying and then suddenly not. I felt a rapture of self worth and a true identification with everything around me, as also being me. When Soriah’s performance was finished, I felt as malleable, soft clay...potentiality and newness surging through my pores. I needed someone to come along and scoop me up, take me to a bath and give me tea. But instead I stayed for the final act, Inade...a Dark Ambient sound manipulation which had interesting instruments added to the otherwise electronic beats. Not really my style of music, but I enjoyed the groove of it as a nice way to end the weekend of intensity.
The cool darkness of the Black Flame closed with a cold shoulder...the reality of the mundane no longer satisfying to my Spirit. This close-knit conclave of practitioners is inspiring, a model for the occult community in general, if people could be open to differences instead of opposed to it.
For more information on these presenters and performers: