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Sunday, 16 September 2018

Winter Celtic Cross. #ASHMag30


We were publishing folk horror way ahead of its time. Illustration by Jim Kirkwood from our Winter 1989 issue.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Hidden Stones. #ASHMag30


            This artwork, by Jim Kirkwood, sat just before the final article, 'The Devil in Essex' 
in ASH Number 1, Autumn 1988

Beyond the Dragon's Lair. #ASHMag30

This article, written by Ian Dawson, is the final one to be placed on this archive from the very first issue of ASH in Autumn 1988. I am currently sitting here at my desk in the Camel Valley, Cornwall copying this excellent article onto the ASH archive. It is Autumn 2018, and it was thirty years ago that this magazine came into creation from the heart of Thames-side Essex. That land of briny silt, muddy creek and haunted coast. So let's enter into the realms 'Beyond the Dragon's Lair', where the enchantment of the low lying land of the East Saxons may find its source.




Beyond the Dragon's Lair

Ian Dawson 


During frequent visits into the Essex countryside, we have visited many rural churches. It has been noticed that on some there are strange and unusual carvings that are not of Christian origin. A few have foliate men, the pagan woodland spirit, and others have mouth pullers, (the cleaned up version of the Sheilagh-na-gig) which are ancient fertility goddesses. They are both pre-Christian symbols of the old religion.

Another symbol of the old religion is the dragon, which can be found on a number of churches, not only in Essex, but throughout Britain. Some relate to actual dragon sitings, such as the Horndon dragon, which was said to have been imported by the Barbary merchants in the middle ages, and escaped into the woods around Horndon, to be killed by Sir James Tyrell. This dragon ncan be seen carved into the woodwork of Nicholas church in nearby Laindon, which upon closer inspection, looks remarkably like a crocodile. Could it have been one of these creatures, brought from the African continent, that escaped into the woods at Horndon?

Perhaps the most well known story is that of the dragon of Henham, written in a pamphlet in Clerkenwell in 1669 by Robert Winstanley of Saffron Walden. According to eye witnesses, it was a "flying serpent" as thick as a mans leg, eight or nine feet long with eyes as big as sheeps, sharp teeth and small wings. This serpent seems to have been chased away by villagers with farm implements, never to be seen again. There is, however, in St Mary's church, Henham, a medieval carving of a dragon commemorating the event. 

Other dragon carvings have no such stories attached to them, such as the dragon being slain by a saint, usually St Michael. Obviously being seen as Christianity triumphing over the old religion. The churches reaction to the dragon, the symbol of the old religion, must be seen in the light of its early relationship with the conquering armies of Rome.

The Romans adopted the windsock banner of the dragon from the Parthians and Persians during their campaigns against these nations. The dragon then became one of the symbols of the hated Roman army, hated at least by the Jews, whose land now lay under the dominion of Rome.  This symbol of Rome is vividly portrayed in the Book of Revelations, doing battle with st Michael. It is the dragon of Rome or the Devil as Rome was seen to represent by the first Jewish Christians. Of course the legions also brought their dragon banners to Britain and their use was continued by the Romano-Celts after the Roman armies left these shores.

The name Uther Pendragon, (Head Dragon) is an example of the importance Celts gave to the dragon. The tradition was continued by Arthur and the dragon is now the national emblem of Wales, one of the last places in Britain to be Christianised. The churches abhorrence to the pagan dragon, stems not so much from the dragon itself, but to what is represents to them. This is why so many hilltop churches were dedicated to St Michael, who traditionally is slayer of dragons and as so many of these churches were built on earlier pagan temples, it would seem indeed, like Christianity was triumphing over the old religion. 

Examples of this can be seen at St Micheal's church in Fobbing, Essex, where in the south porch there can be seen a fifteenth century carving of a serpent, representing the pagans, and a man or local hero representing the Christians, holding open the jaws of the dragon, reminiscent of the strength card of the tarot. Another example of this can be seen at St Lawrence and All saints  in Eastwood, where inside, amongst the pews, there is a dragon scratched into a pillar directly above a pagan mark stone set into the floor. In this case the hero is seen standing above the dragon with his spear pointing down towards the beast and not actually fighting it. 

Not all dragons have slayers, churches often abound with dragons and no knight killing them. Could this relate to the site still being used for pagan worship as many often were in the early days of Christianity? In most cases old churches were built on power centres now termed as "ley-lines", incidentally called by the Chinese, dragon lines or paths. It has been said that when one of these power lines is interfered with, and dragon energy leaks out, and becomes dangerous, the local hero usually  a knight with knowledge of such things, comes to slay the dragon, or put right the damage. Could the leaking energy take the form of apparitions? Out of place animals are often seen where the ground has been disturbed, perhaps even in the form of dragons. Therefore the earth energies  can be seen a dragons winding there way across the countryside, or spiral-like around a hill, usually of a pagan nature.

I can recall a few instances of serpents or worms, as they were sometimes known, coiling around a hill, such as Lampton worm, which wrapped itself around Lampton Hill three times, or the dragon of Bignor Hill in Sussex, the footpaths or sheep tracks, which can be seen on the slopes of the hill, are said to be its coils. I would suggest that both of these places were used in the worship of the old gods in the pre-Christian days. The well known tracks of Glastonbury Tor are known as dragon paths and Hackpen (serpents head) hill near Avebury in Wiltshire, recalls the serpentine avenues of standing stones at the Avebury stone circles. Both of these places were most definitely sacred to the old religion of former times. 

I could go on  and on as there are numerous churches and other places with dragon associations, too many in fact to mention here in this article. indeed why not visit your local old churches and discover for yourself the dragon;s lairs. You will find churches, pre sixteenth century, supply a wealth of paganism with their architecture. You might be surprised at what you do find.




Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Devil in Essex. #ASHMag30

This article was published in Autumn 1988 in the very first issue of ASH magazine, and was the folklore debut of the author.









The Devil in Essex

Alex Langstone



One may be forgiven for thinking, that in this modern age, myths and legends associated with the Devil must have faded with the 'mist of time'. This does not seem to be the case though, as local lore is so deeply etched into the landscape, that to this day there seems to be a wealth of devil legends associated with various places throughout Essex. One of these tales is the story of the Devil and Barn Hall at Tolleshunt Knights.

One day, as the story goes, a local squire decided to build Barn Hall in what was known as Devils Wood. So they started to dig the foundations. Each morning, when they returned, they found the trenches they had dug had been filled in. This went on for a few days, so in desperation, the squire ordered that a sentry be put on duty during the night, so as to find out what was happening. On the first night the sentry heard someone approaching.

"Who goes there!" he shouted.
"I, Satan and my hounds" was the reply.
The sentry replied, "This place is guarded by God and myself."  The Devil turned and fled.

On the second night the Devil once more appeared. Again the sentry inquired as to who was there, and again Old Nick revealled himself. Only this time the sentry made the mistake of declaring that only he was guarding the site, and not God. On hearing this, the Devil picked up a timber and shouted 

"Wherever this timber lands, you shall build barn hall", and with that he tore out the mans heart.

The Devil then vowed that he would have the mans soul whether he was buried inside the church or out. So it was decided that they should bury him within the church wall. There are those who say, that if you look closely, you can make out the evil one's claw marks on the walls of the parish church, where he tried in vain to search out his prey.

One point to this story that is interesting is if you visit All Saints church at Tolleshunt Knights you will see, in the north wall a niche, in this niche is a stone effigy of a knight holding his heart.

There seems to be several variations to this story that I have come across. One version states that the sentry was in fact a knight, and the  hounds of the story belonged to the knight rather than the Devil. These hounds, incidentally, are said to haunt the nearby marshes on stormy nights. Another variation on the theme says that the Devil did not tear out the mans heart until after his natural death. One point that does not seem to change though, is the part of the story which tells of the beam, which the devil threw up the hill and was incorporated into the cellar of Barn Hall, which can still be seen today. However, it would be an unwise to attempt to view it, as the "Horned One" placed a curse on the beam, so that anyone who dared to enter the cellar would receive a nasty wound!

It does seem difficult to establish how this legend came about as the story is fairly old: Barn Hall was built in 1500, and the only thing that springs to mind at present, is the knight effigy holding his heart. (Image right: Effigy of the Knight, Tolleshunt Knights from 'The ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex' by Frederic Chancellor 1890). Another variation on the theme, that I have left out up to now, concerns the stone effigy. The story goes much the same as before except that it is said that the effigy in the church was the actual sentry on duty at Devils Wood, and that the Devil, when he realised his plans of taking his soul/heart were  to be thwarted, turned him into stone.

References

Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes: ‘The Essex Village Book’ (Countryside Books, 2001), p.226.
Sabine Baring-Gould: ‘Mehalah’ (1881), p.138.
James Wentworth Day: ‘Here are Ghosts and Witches’ (Batsford, 1954)
 
First published in ASH magazine, number 1, autumn 1988.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Thomas Hickathrift, Lord of the Year (part 2)

Above: Saffron Walden parish church


This is the second episode of Dave Hunt's research into the legends surrounding Thomas Hickathrift. It appeared in ASH number 2 winter 1988 and is reproduced here with brand new images to help enhance and expand the article. Dave, a Cornishman by birth, looks at some Cornish links to the East Anglian folktales and concludes with fascinating evidence of ancient sun worship in the ancient and historic North Essex town of Saffron Walden.


Thomas Hickathrift, Lord of the Year
Part 2: Sun Worship

by Dave Hunt
In the first episode, I related some of the legends of Tom Hickathrift, giant and giant killer. I have since come across a legend from Morvah in Cornwall, which makes it necessary to tell one of the other East Anglian tales.According to tradition, in Tom's later years, he set up home with a tinker, who was the only man who could match Tom's strength and fighting ability. This may seem a rather feeble legend in itself, but when I relate the Cornish legend, you will realise its significance.

The Morvah Legend.
Morvah, in the far west of Cornwall, has always been famous for its giants. The Cornish language did not die out here until the 18th century, and the people were so isolated from the rest of the country they retained their customs and beliefs long after they had become folklore elsewhere.
In one of the tales, the story is told of one giant called Tom, and his battle with another of his kind. As Tom drove his cart from St Ives to his home in Morvah he found the road blocked by a newly constructed dry stone wall. Because he was too tired to remove it, Tom decided to take a short cut across the land of another giant who lived in a nearby castle. As he drew near the castle, Tom was challenged by the occupier, who demanded to know why Tom was on his land. Tom argued that, as the giant had blocked the road with the wall, he was taking his own way home. At this, the giant pulled a small elm tree by its roots, and brandishing it as a weapon, ordered Tom from his land. Tom then upturned his cart and , removing a wheel and axle s haft stood to face his foe. After a battle that made the ground shake with its ferocity, Tom finally dispatched his enemy with a mighty blow to the neck. The victor then took possession of the castle and all the treasure it contained. A point of interest is that the legend states that while the battle was being fought, the local people were dancing round the festive fires in the vicinity.

This legend and that told of the East Anglian Tom are so obviously the same that one wonders how the same story can exist at different ends of the country, a distance of some 300 miles apart. Having said this, it is of interest that East Anglia was, until quite recently, as isolated as Northwest Cornwall. Perhaps we have here a nationwide memory of the old Gods, told by the people of Albion's extreme regions to their children and grandchildren until relatively modern times.

As for Tom Hickathrift's companion of later years, the tinker, the Morvah legend states that Tom eventually befriended a Tinker named Jack, whose strength matched his own. Tom even allowed Jack to marry his daughter Genevra. The wedding took place on the first Sunday in August. One and a half miles east of Morvah stand the MĂȘn-an-Tol holed stone, one of the most enigmatic Bronze Age stone monuments in the country. This consists of two upright stones and a third, which is disc shaped with a round hole in the centre, not unlike a cartwheel.


Ogmios
Ogmios - Ogma Sunface, Son of Breas, Lord of the Sun and the Celtic Hercules was worshipped by the Druids as the inventor of the Ogham alphabet, god of eloquence, healing, fertility and prophecy. He is portrayed in carvings as wearing a lion skin, a nd carries a huge club. His feast day in Scotland is Hogmany, our New Years Eve. The power of Ogmios lies not in his great strength, but is symbolised by the chain that joins his tongue to the ears of those listening to him. He is a hero furthering the cause of civilisation, the god of eloquence and persuasive discourse. In Irish mythology, he becomes th e god Ogma, whose sword tells all the exploits it accomplishes during the battle of Mar Tured.
 
The Greek Hercules is depicted in similar garb to Ogmios, wearing a lion skin, and carrying a club. He was also famed as a healer of the sick, and Lord of the Zodiac. Ogmios, as Sun God, would naturally carry the same title. The Roman writer Lucian connected Ogmios with Hercules, and in Gaul a similar figure existed in Smertius, the Striker, although this Summer God carried a hammer rather than a club.

Ogmios as inventor of the Ogham alphabet has some famous counterparts. Among his equals we find Hermes, in ventor of the Greek alphabet, Thoth, inventor of hieroglyphics, and Odin, discoverer of the Runes. Ogmios as lord of the Sun also has a counterpart in Helios, the Greek god of the Sun.

Getting back to Saffron Walden, it is time to look for signs of our Sun God around the town. St Mary's church is a magnificent Norman (with later additions) building and is said to be the largest parish church in the country. As with many other sacred and secular buildings, it has many superb gargoyles and grotesques carved on it's exterior. High on the north wall of the nave are spandrels, decorated with, amongst other designs, cart wheels. These undoubted solar symbols are usually symbolic of St Catherine, a fictitious Christian marty r put to death by the Romans on a blazing cartwheel. Lower down the north wall, tucked in beside a buttress, is a charming little carving of a fellow wielding a club, with a most fearsome look on his face. Again, high high up on the north wall, we find a string course of grotesques including a phoenix, symbol of rebirth, another solar sign, two figures holding torches, solar again, and a chained monkey. "A chained monkey?" I hear you cry. "What on earth has a chained monkey got to do with the Ogham alphabet?" Absolutely nothing! However it is of interest that one of the symbols of Thoth, inventor of Hieroglyphs, is a monkey which he led around on a chain!
So what of Hermes and Odin. Can we find evid ence of these two in Saffron Walden? Indeed we can. Of Odin, just a small thing. South west of the town in Grimsditch Wood, in medieval times Grymswich. Grim is another name for Odin, or Woden, discoverer of the Runic alphabet.


Above: Saffron Walden Turf Maze.

Hermes, it is said, discovered the Greek alphabet after watching cranes flying in formation overhead, making letters as they flew. Apart from the figures of Tom and the Wisbech giant on the Sun Inn, we find two depictions of cranes, birds sacred to Hermes. A sculpture above the doors of Barclay's bank in the town, executed during the early part of the twentieth century, depicts cranes flying. Coincidence? Maybe. Of the two Sun Inn cranes, one is shown performing a mating display, or crane dance as it was called in ancient Greece. The crane dance is said to have produced the pattern of the labyrinth or maze into which the sun god descended after his yearly death to be reborn eventually from its centre. On the east side of Saffron Walden common lies one of the countries largest and best turf mazes or labyrinths in the country. One of the streets approaching the common and aligning approximately onto the maze, is Hill Street. In 1468 this was Helestrete (Hele Street) surely a reference to Helios, the Greek sun god. If the alignment is carried across the common, through the maze and continued, we come eventually to Helion Bumstead. May I suggest that before the two and three stories building were erected in Saffron Walden, one could stand looking along Helestrete and see the newly born sun rise from the maze, on a particular day.

This is some of the evidence of Sun God worship in ancient Saffron Walden. However, before I close this episode I should mention a small carving of a Romano-British God found at Corstopitum, a Roman town in the north of England. It depicts a god dressed in Roman type armour, who carries a square shield and a large club. He is accompanied by a single cartwheel.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Feast of Atargatis

To mark today's feast of Atargatis, 21st February 2010, we are pleased to present an article that was originally published in The Lighthouse number 2, Autumnal Equinox 1993 issue. The Feast of Atargatis, a strange but true surreal visionary adventure of psychic communications across time and space, of haunting past lives and the battle between a mermaid fish Goddess and a dark sea monster from another dimension. Enjoy.


The Feast of Atargatis
(Four Go Mad at Brean Down)

by Swami Amrit Surlok

Thames Estuary. Isle of Tanit. Circa 900 BC.

Nights darkness. At the rivers edge a procession of robed forms silhouetted as their shadows moved in the moonlight. Selenka, Priestess, Princess, raises her arms and her companions follow. The gateway in the depths to the spaces between the spaces was open and the dragon of the deep stirred. Beyond the moons reflection another light flickered seeming to originate beneath the surface of the water. Selenka was troubled. Something was amiss. The forces she worked with were changing, distorting, as the rituals in her homeland degenerated. She thought of her Phoenician family and how she had travelled to this strange sacred river to oversee the rites associated with the sea on which her people depended. Her brothers Gilgaat and Balaat caused her great concern. All three of them were disgusted by the sacrifices of children to Astarte their father the king officiated at. The brothers were to be initiated as full Priests of the cult and would be expected to continue the procedure. Blood was everywhere. It was coming nearer. The seashell grotto of the water dragon stank of it.

Above: Atargatis

Daylight. Selenka stood by the river. She'd seen the scene so vividly. The initiation of her brothers. The bald chanting Priests. The smoking choking incense. At the crucial moment the brothers turn away. Her father the king. They're walking back signalling refusal to accept. The king steps forward. A sword. The brothers slain. Balaats back shredded. Pierced to his lungs. Thrown on a ritual fire. She stood now staring at the beautiful plate she held in her hands. Charged with the energies she loved. An image of a female mermaid type form whose long flowing hair was made up of numerous tiny fishes. The whole framed in intricate patterns. It was all over. Must be shut down. Put into the ethers to return again in another time and space. She hurled the plate in despair into the river. There was still a final process to fulfil. Her brothers were in the great void. Magical destinies were being worked out. Almost immediately they'd been born again and yet not born. Deliberately magically aborted. Brought by the Priests to the river of darkness in the other world island in the west. To the star beacon, the hill of the dreaming dead. To the opposite bank of the very river at which she stood. They had come and placed the foetuses, Gilgaat sliced in half, in this void space to take them beyond normal destiny and prepare them for the right time. Secretly Selenka came to the hill and entered the realm of death working with the souls of her brothers to ensure their well being. For her now as for them this incarnation was to conclude with a sacrifice in the name of good. The black serpent, raw shadow of blood, Qliphotic form, was through the gateway now. Everywhere the feeling of pestilence and violence increased. Standing on the hilltop she called it to her. It wrapped itself entirely around her.

January 1993.
The black serpent was back in the River Thames. Somehow, after the performance of the extraordinary ritual to mark out the chakra points of the Avebury serpent at the winter solstice, a corresponding response in the depths of the Daath doorway beneath the waters in the realm of primal Nodens beyond Reculver had brought forth the balancing shadow form of the river dragon. The great conjunction was near. Uranus and Neptune. Vast karma burning. Past lives. The watery deep. Daath darkness to be faced. Acknowledged. Integrated. The close knit group of friends all were facing their shadows. What on earth had happened to them all? Suddenly they were barely able to talk to each other as they confronted intense agonies in their personal processes. Dispersion. Dissolution. Seething negativity. Violence in the air. Even strangers shared nightmares of a monster in the river.

Above: Eight pointed star depicted in the Margate Seashell Grotto

For Ma Prem Dana the last few months had finally proved to be too much. After her incredible inner plane initiation as Priestess of Ishtar in the Temple of the Blue Flame on Ishtar's feast day in August as Surlok's living room had entirely dissolved and become a Babylonian temple she and he had experienced a roller coaster ride of initiatory dramas beyond anything either of them had ever thought possible. The kahuna shamanic exorcism to remove Hecate from her. Encounter groups. Therapies. Screaming. Vomiting. Reiki. The endless sagas into the early hours of the morning of E.T.'s. Dolphins. Mahakala and Dakinis, Enochian Angels, the Babylonian past life with Surlok, the three eighteen foot tall void beings from Sirius who followed Surlok around, and finally the orgasmic ecstasy of the kundalini energy of Osho Rajneesh, quickly followed by the amazing revelation of Ishtar. Somehow she and Surlok had received in one stunning session a complete vastly intricate life teaching centred on a calendar of the eight pointed star of Ishtar in which everything that they were into was resolved. It aligned to the seasonal festivals of Paganism. This wheel of the year turned anti-clockwise and included a space between the spaces invisible eight point star within it to mark the half-way points between the festivals when, so they were led to believe, the void zones fully manifested. What did it all mean? The short term effect was total burn-out. Having climbed so high and been filled with so much light so did a complimentary stirring of the dark depths manifest. Every problem she'd ever had in her whole life confronted her in its most extreme form.

Swami Amrit Surlok knew that for him 1993 was time to really get into Tibetan energies. Lying on the floor having been reading about the wrathful deities, the skull smashing blood drinkers from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, he'd given himself a Reiki treatment listening to monks chanting to Tara. He experienced an unusual physiological phenomenon. Rapid eye movement whilst still awake and in fact intensely conscious. It lasted perhaps as long as half an hour and felt so strong he worried his eyes were about to shoot out on stalks. It concluded with a searing pain in his right temple. When he awoke the next morning both nostrils were filled with blood and he was acutely aware of his skull as he'd never been before and an aching all over it. A gentle pulsation in the forehead persisted on and off for days and eventually months afterwards. He calmly accepted he'd possibly had some sort of astral brain operation. It was not uncommon apparently to Reiki initiates. It fitted with the wrathful deities and Reiki was ultimately coming from a Tibetan space. After all Dana had experienced being taken by Mikao Usui to a mountain top where he'd pierced her brain with a foot long syringe. Extreme psychism immediately followed. It was worrying then to keep thinking of the river and something hideous pulling him there. Keep it under wraps. Don't talk about it to anyone. Don't pump it up.

Alex Langstone was disturbed. Why the pull to the Thames and the feeling of Lovecraftian malevolence? What did 1993 have to offer? Confiding in Surlok concerning the river they realised something was afoot. A get together was in order. Alex's flat. The Temple room. Why not listen to this Tibetan Tara chant. Within moments for Alex the room vanished to be replaced by Silbury Hill. A female form dancing atop it. A Sky Dancer Dakini? Surlok and Dana had both seen after the Avebury ritual, independently of each other on the same night, Tara and a host of Dakinis around Silbury. The figure was changing. The image resolving. It now looked eastern Mediterranean. A communication. A name. Selenka Astarte. Game on. In the weeks immediately following, Alex experienced Selenka as a kind of inner plane contact. It soon became apparent things were far more complicated . Scenes from the past. The river. The plate. Then beyond. The brothers. Death. Selenka the sister. Surlok felt a potential great significance in the shortly up coming conjunction with its aspects of deep karma and Neptunian waters. The black serpent in the river was bringing back what had gone before and it had to be resolved.

Surlok had a feeling about Selenka. Dana was out of commission wrestling with her personal demons. He was convinced Selenka was a past life of hers. On being asked the Selenka contact confirmed this. Here was an unusual case of what the literature of Shamanism called soul loss. There was no physical contact with Dana at all but some aspect of her was guiding a vast process. Some vital part of her she'd lost contact with and was consequently in a shut down stupor. It must be sorted but when? The Imbolc conjunction was the centre of gravity but it was felt unwise to undertake hefty work of a magical nature right in the middle of it. Surlok had been trying to make sense of the Ishtar Star teaching. He knew that this was a space between the spaces scenario. He knew that he was looking for a date somewhere in the twenties of February. Aha! The twenty-first was a new moon. This could be it. Investigate further. It was exactly six months on from the August Ishtar feast of Dana's initiation. The Star Teaching postulated a strange relationship between events separated by six month periods. Wasn't the Tibetan new year the new moon in February as well? This was getting interesting. Alex and Surlok wanted to transcend this past life grunge in order to be able to open up to the Tibetan energies they both now felt were to be the years centre of gravity. Here was a possible nexus point where all the issues could be put into the cosmic blender together. Surlok flicked through Durdin-Robertson's Goddess festival yearbook. February 21st. Atargatis!

Above: A Mermaid by J. W. Waterhouse

Here was the figure on Selenka's plate. Atargatis was primarily a Phoenecian Goddess generally pictured as half woman half fish. Virtually the original mermaid. In some versions she was consort to Dagon on whom Lovecraft had based his awesome Cthulhu concept. Cthulhu who lay sleeping beneath the ocean depths ready to return. Surlok knew that any situation like this could always be made far worse by looking a Kenneth Grant's books. Outside the Circles of Time was the best bet. Grant quoting Michael Bertiaux on translating forces from Universe B through the Daath portal into Universe A: "Dagon will come again, as will mighty sorceries - for the mighty beasts of the deep have been unleashed and they have gone about their pathway of destruction and far worse is expected - only by lycanthropic transformation by being and firstly becoming a monster shall the magician escape". Good news for certain. And Dagon was connected with Sirius. Hang on a minute. Ishtar star six months reverbs. After Surlok, Alex, Dana and others had performed an intense reality-smashing ritual to bring Isis/Sirius down into the Glastonbury Zodiac in July '92 in the brief period before Ishtar first appeared on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at the Ozric Tentacles gig at Glastonbury, Alex's Dion Fortune contact had spoken of a void portal opened in the Thames. There had been some joking about Dagon being in the river. Shortly before Dana's initiation a series of events had linked Ishtar to the river in a similar way to the Isis Thames connection and hints of Dagon had been present. No one was laughing now. The chums were knackered. 1992 had been a head-banging year. They just wanted to chill out until the pretty flowers came out. Lycanthropic transformation to sort out Daath portals to Universe B they could do without. Surlok had wondered why he'd been feeling like an axe murderer for a month. Now he was starting to suss it.

Atargatis was fascinating. The deities of the Phoenicians had links with the Babylonians. Atargatis was connected with Ishtar. As far as Surlok was concerned she was an aspect of Ishtar. She had strong elements of the love goddess about her. Aphrodite had undoubtedly evolved from Atargatis. Botticellis immortal image of Venus/Aphrodite emerging from the sea was a modern doorway into that space.

Above: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Here was the key. A turning point in the year. Winter transforming into spring. A black serpent to turn green. The spring love goddess to transmute the darkness from the depths. Atargatis was in some sense a glyph of a primordial moment in evolution that somehow each of the players in the drama had to recapitulate in their own psyches. Halfway between alien depths and human love she was a mediator who existed in the spaces-between-the-spaces just as, for example, the Trickster archetype was both animal and divine. Where to accomplish this though? At first somewhere along the Thames estuary seemed the best bet.

On a Sunday afternoon in late January Surlok suddenly recalled some Enochian void shenanigans he, Dana and Alex had messed about with the previous June. The whole thing had been quickly closed down when a huge serpent had emerged and started wrapping itself around Dana. What? No way was this not connected. He told Alex thereby pressing the on button for an exceedingly odd scenario. Late that night Alex felt called into his Temple room. Selenka was waiting for him. She pulled him out of his body and took him to Dana's flat where she was sat mute, a hideous serpent coiled around her body. Alex was to remove this serpent from her and give it a good hiding. He later confessed that the resulting tussle was the heaviest do of his life and he'd seriously considered at one point in the midst of it all that he'd taken on more than he could handle and was going to literally physically die. Eventually mission was accomplished.

Now a very surreal sketch. Alex and Surlok journeyed to Silbury Hill for the February full moon. They were guided by Selenka throughout. No contact in the 3D world with her physical current incarnation had happened all year. It was time for lycanthropic transformation. Hurray! A black serpent lay sluggish across the landscape. On the hill Alex's main inner plane contact who was known as Jeremiah orchestrated the scene. Selenka in attendence. Ishtar, Astarte, Tara and Kuan Yin at the four quarters. Surlok's friend Jane danced a serpentine circle around. Alex sorted out vast energies. Surlok allowed the black snake to enter him. He knew from his initiation into Sannyas he could handle it. Back then in November he'd screamed and howled and cried for twenty solid minutes as the awesome transformative life energy had entered his body. Hyperventilating to stop his ribs breaking and his body from exploding he'd experienced ecstasy beyond anything he'd previously known. Dana had seen a huge serpent rising up his spine. Coming back from Glastonbury to Avebury the next day Dana told Surlok that the same snake was in the ground there. Everything evokes its complimentary force. Again crying howling growling screaming writhing wriggling on the ground, on the womb of the Earth Mother, the third eye void gateway of Silbury, Surlok was overwhelmed. His tongue was flicking in and out. He was licking the earth. Find him a jacket that does up at the back. Finally peace was restored. The black serpent turned green. A turning point of sorts. The feast of Atargatis beckoned though. It seemed anything could happen by then.

Above: Mahakala

In the week leading up to the big day Surlok's phone rang. Dana! He'd deliberately not contacted her to lay all this horrendous strangeness on her as he knew she was going through some heavy times. He also knew that their incredible telepathic bond was such that inevitably she would be in some way tuned into the saga but to what degree? She knew an important time was very near. Cautiously they opened up to each other. He said nothing at first of the Selenka story. She'd been dreaming of underwater scenes. Dolphins and mermaids. Yes, she'd felt compelled to watch the movie "Splash" when it had recently been on TV. She'd had a long time affinity with mermaids. There was Tibetan stuff happening for her as well. Most importantly a strong feeling had been building up to travel to the West Country for the coming weekend. All of her commitments had vanished leaving the time free. She wanted to go somewhere beyond Glastonbury. Visions of the sea. A cliff peninsular stretching a long way out into the water. Let's get together with Alex and see what happens.

Above: Brean Down

As Surlok put the phone down he realised where the location was. Brean Down! He practically vomited his dinner up. Brean Down. The physical location for Dion Fortune's immortal occult novel "The Sea Priestess". The haunting past life drama of a woman called from far off lands (in this case Atlantis) to preside over sacrificial rites of the sea and the karmic reworking in the present day of what was left unresolved. Dana had not read the book and didn't know the story. Neither Surlok or Alex had consciously recalled it recently but the whole Selenka story had uncanny resonances with it. Once Surlok got the idea of Selenka as Sea Priestess his legs almost gave way. He and Alex knew Brean Down and the novel only too well. Back in July 1990 in the days of the Grove of the Sky Dancers they'd performed in Essex the ritual the Farrars had got together from the fragments in Fortune's book. When Surlok had got home that night his bedroom ceiling had partially collapsed and he'd narrowly escaped serious injury. Stories circulated that the sea priestess material was well strong and others had had some heavy scenes with it. Undeterred and possibly insane they'd gone to Brean Down later that year to do the ritual again. After a few strange events they’d bottled it and fled in a state of near hysterical terror convinced that certain death would have followed the rituals performance. They knew something big and unresolved was waiting for them there and they'd have to go back eventually.

Above: Priestess by Chesca Potter

Friday February 19th. Surlok, Dana and Alex at Alex's flat. The beans spilled. How much of this saga corresponded to whatever was happening to Dana? A good test case: Alex and the serpent he'd removed from her. Surlok knew when that had been. The movie "The Abyss" (most appropriately) had been on TV that night. Part of Dana's drama of being presented with karma to be micro waved was the reappearance of an ex boyfriend who can be called Bob after the character in "Twin Peaks". He'd come out of the closet and Dana recalled the night in question vividly. On waking the next morning Bob had told her he'd spent the whole night pulling snakes out of her body. At that time in general it was not unusual for him to relate that he'd just disposed of a large snake out of the window. It's a funny old life guv'nor and no mistaking. The unutterable strangeness of this vibed up the coming weekend very nicely.

So long awaited the Feast of Atargatis weekend was here. Tibetan new year. Nexus point. Alex, Surlok, Dana and Ma Sitaram Kola headed for Silbury for starters. Atop the hill where Selenka had first been seen Surlok and Alex burned Tibetan Buddhist incense around a large framed picture of the great protector Mahakala. A statue of the Dhyani Buddha Askobhya (who transmutes the distorted energy of anger, aggression, hatred and violence into clarity and mirror wisdom) and an image of Green Tara.

Dana let out a great scream. On to Brean Down in primal darkness for a preliminary vibe out. Dana was told the story of the Sea Priestess of Dion Fortune. Surlok's three 18 foot tall mates from Sirius were about as well. Finally to a B&B in Weston-Super-Mare. Surlok wasn't impressed by the decor in the bedroom of the lesser spotted whatever it was warbler and up went Mahakala. Out came the statue of Tara. Into the sleep void softly chanting the name of Mahakala.

Feast day. Brekkers. A party of Nuns sat next to the chums crossing themselves before eating. Good job they didn't get a glimpse of Mahakala. He's a fluffy pink pussy cat when you get to know him, but his appearance is that of a terrifying demon. To the beach and the great sheer face of rock to be climbed by steep stairs. Dana confirmed on seeing the place in day light for the first time that it was indeed the place of her visions. Why was a man sitting at a desk way out on the beach? Why was another wearing a straw boater doing some outlandish dance routine a little further up the beach? They were being filmed. Of course that explained it all. 11am. Sunday morning and miles had been walked and to where? The climax of such a saga was hardly likely to be uneventful. Alex began to develop strange physical symptoms. In his recent workings with his Temple of Isis Iseum he kept ending up drowned at the bottom of the sea as some sort of sacrifice. It had been so real he'd tasted sea water and felt his lungs filling. He began to intuit a karmic link with his asthma and recent bouts of pleurisy. Now his breathing was laboured and his back hurting. The image of Baalat’s sliced back and punctured lungs. And out there in the Bristol channel ahead a lighthouse. Haunted since childhood by this image and recently going through events linking it with the goddess he was launching a magazine of that name. Deep, at the very least, Jungian processes of integration were emerging from his depths. As the four chums neared the ruined fort at the cliffs edge Alex felt as if his whole life’s drama was about to somehow be resolved.

Above: The Sea Priestess (detail) by Paul Atlas-Saunders

Surlok marvelled at how the diverse and individual elements of the whole mythic saga somehow harmoniously interrelated so that even apparent contradiction could be integrated within its flow. He had his own personal perspective on what this was all about. When the Avebury ritual had first entered his head his brain was full of Kenneth Grant, nutty stories of Egyptians in Wiltshire and an image of Nuit arched over Silbury painted by Chesca Potter. Nuit equated with Draco, dragon serpent of space, "Primal Goddess of the Seven Stars, which were considered as her spirits, souls or sons. These seven were manifested by the first-born son, Typhon, ie Set." The feeling was that the serpent in the sky of infinite space was lying also in the landscape waiting to resonate again to the most archaic of frequencies. The ritual would "bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men" by aligning the seven stars with the seven chakra points in the landscape serpent. It was a safe bet that such a sketch would have tumultuous results. Two months later he felt he had a preliminary understanding of what had happened, at least to him. Vibing heavily with Crowley and ancient Babylon he was experiencing some kind of blending. He'd often felt surprised in view of Crowley's Babalon cultus how few references to Ishtar as such could be found in Thelemic literature. He believed she should be consciously fully integrated into the Thelemic mythos being a perfect meeting place of celestial Nuit and physical Isis. Here was the original Queen of Heaven and Goddess of Love, War and Magick all in one. After all the Scarlet Woman, Whore of Babylon of Revelations, undoubtedly derived from Ishtar.

There's a strange correlation between the void of infinite space and the oceans darkest depths. Life emerged from both these profoundly alien zones. Just as there was a dragon of space who could be considered as the womb of humanity so likewise a dragon of the deep. In the Babylonian system this was Tiamat. Tiamat, Surlok felt, was a Nuit of the waters. As the seven stars were in the Avebury serpent so they were also in the Thames as he himself had previously discovered in his psychic quest along it in 1991 through seven holy wells to its source at Seven Springs. Tiamat was a benevolent force. A womb of humanity. As Babylonian culture developed something went wrong. As matriarchy was supplanted by patriarchy the male deity Marduk predominated. Tiamat became personified as a chaos monster, an evil force. In a conflict with Marduk she was dismembered. The Phoenicians seemed to have pumped up the worst aspects of Babylonian material the wrong way. Alex's battle with the serpent was a wyrd echo of the Marduk Tiamat scenario. The Thames serpent represented a magical current distorted. Alex and Surlok had no quarrel with Marduk. He was an old matey of theirs. That didn't alter the fact that Tiamat needed rehabilitating. There had been a strong feeling that all of the whole mad business needed to be sorted by the Spring Equinox. This was Tiamat's festival and Babylonian new year when the combat of Marduk and Tiamat had been ritually re-enacted. If the current remained distorted the whole year would be wrecked. Atargatis felt like a meeting of Tiamat and Ishtar who were ultimately the same force. It made perfect sense (to Surlok at least) that She offered an ideal key to turn everything around.

Dagon as a Typhonic force was a watery Set. Set the first born of the Seven Stars from the space between the spaces. A son/consort of the Goddess. This energy is in everyone. No point in putting on a blissed-out New Age smile and surrounding yourself with cotton wool and candy floss and ignoring it or banishing it as evil. Face it, own it, integrate it. Deny it and remain unbalanced for the rest of your life. In Jungian terms at least to claim you haven't got a Shadow is pure stupidity. The void. Ecstasy or terror? Dissolve in it's silence. In space no-one can hear you scream. But...Harpocrates divine child carries the real bliss in his smile and his gesture of silence. The radiance of the sun behind the sun.

Above: Aeon Tarot Trump from Aleister Crowley's
Thoth Tarot, painted by Lady Frieda Harris

Nothingness is always greater than that which apposes it. Fear of the void. Mankind’s endless striving and mechanical desiring all come from it. Distorted energy of distracted being as the Tibetans would term it. Ishtar, Crowley, Tibet, and Rajneesh taught Surlok the same thing: the Void is female. The destruction it appears to reap is always necessary. It is actually a nurturing force. Paradoxically it is empty and utterly full and overflowing simultaneously. This was the Zen Koan life had presented Surlok with that had finally destroyed his brain. The Void is the Tao. It is life itself. Set-Typhon appears as a monster, a dismemberer just like the wrathful skull smashing blood drinkers of Tibet. As the Abyss is crossed and the ego has to have its endless games dissolved, even that which was good and worthy, of course it comes to picture the dynamic energies responsible as terrifying and evil. The Indians knew the truth. Shiva was simultaneously creator and destroyer. To Surlok he was like the Horus-Set duality in one figure. Even an accomplished mystic and magician may hang onto the fear that when all they thought they were and knew is gone there will be nothing left. All of the paraphernalia of ritual is an attempt to hang onto and pump up what ultimately you have to give up. Ra Hoor Khuit the will of the magician is very impressive and powerful and it's tempting to identify exclusively with him but Hoor Paar Kraat is vaster by far and his message through Harpocrates is Silence. There's a Gnostic image of Harpocrates seated on a lotus. Surlok used it in his imagination to blend Crowley and Tibet and to help all of those diverse elements of his mind to harmoniously dissolve into the Void together. The Nothing that is feared is Everything. Only in it, out of the Tao, that Void can the True Will , the star of the Hidden God, the sun behind the sun, manifest. Some challenge.

Surlok knew '93 was an inevitable Thelemic saga. His three mates from Sirius always appeared in Crowleyan situations. He began to intuit increasing levels of subtlety. Having raised the serpent within himself through Sannyas and the Avebury ritual so also did Set-Typhon manifest. The Dagon serpent he'd allowed to enter him served as Hoor Paar Kraat to Ra Hoor Khuit. He was putting on the wings and arousing the coiled splendour within him. This void Goddess space was what Muktananda called the divine Goddess Shakti Kundalini whose body is the entire universe and is all life. As this force got to work in an individual it ironed out the creases. Spasms and convulsions, howling like an animal, all sorts of odd physical symptoms, many not at all pleasant, were standard fare. This was the Typhonic initiation. Surlok longed for the Roses of Isis.

And so they had found themselves, as if in a dream, exploring the ruins of the nineteenth century army fort that in Dion Fortune's novel had become the temple home of Vivien Le Fay Morgan, looking down the steep jagged rocks to the crashing waves of the tumultuous Bristol Channel. There on the rocks at the waters edge the Fires of Azrael had been lit and the secrets of the future seen. A semi-circular ruined gun emplacement at the very edge of the cliffs provided a self contained zone which could easily be mocked up in imagination as a temple. It was a bright morning and looking out and down into the waters, the sunlight glistening through their rhythmic pulsations, it was easy to get a sense of ancient civilisations and their timeless mysteries. Ever since first reading the Sea Priestess in the early eighties Alex had experienced powerful longings to travel to Brean and throw himself into the sea as a sacrifice. The feeling returned stronger than ever. Turmoil boiled within him.

Above: Astarte Syriaca by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dana sat on the outer rim of the gun emplacement facing out to sea. Surlok sat at her left, Alex to her right. Kola stood behind Alex. Dana now saw Surlok standing above his body wearing a white robe and holding a stone urn that was giving forth clouds of smoke. Smoke of the fire of Azrael. She saw herself in a green velvet robe with gold embroidery. Alex was in red and holding aloft a long sword pointing to his left that reached over the heads of Dana and Surlok. So did Selenka, Gilgaat and Balaat make their return. Had they had some sense of all this then? What had they seen in that fire? Dana had a strong feeling of life in the churning channel, they were being watched from deep within the water. Her throat constricted and she began to experience a physical transformation until she had gills and was breathing through them. A wave of divine energy came from the water and shot through her body up between her legs. Kundalini sea energy. Exactly six months on from her initiation as a Priestess of Ishtar so now did she become Priestess of Atargatis as Selenka was reclaimed and reintegrated. What exactly does a Priestess of Atargatis do in the twentieth century? Within moments she was to find out.

Alex was in agony. He was blind. The sea had entered his head. A blue energy that seemed to say "come to me". This was the end. Kola held him back and put Reiki into him. He had opened his eyes but couldn't see. Or breathe. Coughing. Choking. Water in his lungs. Dana put her hands on Alex. "Get the pain out!" he howled. His back was open. A great gaping wound hole. Burning as if seared with red hot metal. Dana's process of reintegration with her higher self had been instantaneous. Without even thinking she understood what had happened to her and was able to help Alex. "The sea is not your enemy. It's your friend. Use it to heal yourself. That blue energy. Breathe it in. Breathe out, spew out the colour of your pain. What colour is your pain?" Brown. Alex coughed up grunge galore. The cosmic process got personal. He was looking for someone/something to blame for his pain. Dana switched on her Sannyasin therapist aspect. Alex's self exorcism climaxed in a scream to the waters. Sadness. Depths of grief. The forces that Surlok and Dana's Sannyas initiator Manan had called the Divine Energy Dance came down and took Alex's pain away. Transmuted the base matter, the prima materia. Compassion flooded Alex. And then. Love. This was a homecoming. He'd returned to the depths where he'd emerged from. Personally, emotionally, spiritually, magically, totally. Acknowledged, owned, integrated, loved. So is the shadow sorted. He opened his eyes. "I am going to have to take the 1st degree of Reiki" he said.

So the chums walked back along Brean Down and out onto the beach for the finale. The beach was all but deserted. The February sun shone promisingly. Out to the waters edge. An offering of love to Atargatis/Aphrodite and the hope of the coming Spring. Red and yellow flowers and milk given to life’s waters, to the Love Goddess of the Sea who had guided the agonies of transformation from the alien bestial void depth. Ishtar/Tiamat. Yes, the secret of Alchemy. Without love you cannot face your shadow and sort it. Blessings had showered. All praise to the Goddess. The chums were totally blissed-out. Off they went for some well earned tea and buttered scones. On the journey home they stopped for a silent acknowledgement of the awesome mystery that is Silbury Hill and then back to mystic Essex for beddy-byes.

Monday 22nd February 1993. Alex and Dana had obviously got a result from Brean Down, but Surlok wasn't sure if the whole process had been fulfilled for him. Despite some extraordinary material that Dana and Alex had given him concerning his three mates from Sirius he was left feeling that for him personally surely something more spectacular should have concluded this epic saga. He went to bed and entered what he termed "Void Consciousness". This was a space he instantly recognised and had preceeded his astral brain operation. It was somewhere in the realm of Gurdjieff's "Self Remembering" and Osho's "Witnessing". A sense of conscious awareness but without any object or ideas being seized upon for that awareness to maintain itself. It started by just looking at the back of the eyelids and thinking on nothing. No verbal formulation. If this state was maintained sometimes a shift of gear occurred when it seemed the head expanded. He found himself in that space. Now his hands began to throb and pulsate very strongly as they rested palms down by his sides. He was used to strange sensations in his hands from Reiki but this was excessive. He was not aware of any discontinuity in his consciousness at any point in this process. His hands continued to pulsate ever more strongly.

Suddenly he felt a shock as profound as any he'd known. A pair of hands, utterly real, totally physical. were gripping his own as if from beneath, palm to palm. Opening his eyes he saw emerging from below his stomach, joined to him, the upper body of a male humanoid entity whose hands were those gripping his own. Its colour was a blue tinged olive. The face was like some classical God or Angel but somehow familiar. The eyes were burning. Whites incredibly bright. It looked at Surlok. Into him. A transmission of energies through the hands penetrated his subtle bodies. He was aware of endless layers and grids, of energies inside him. Chakras, acupuncture meridians, bodies of light, his human anatomy. The whole lot. Everything. The two figures were merging. Undulating pounding waves of interpenetrating electric rhythms were forming new retuned circuits of energy. Surlok was moaning and groaning orgasmically and then again opened his eyes. What? A dream? A searing pain shot through his right temple. He'd had a complete continuity of consciousness. Intense self awareness in fact but...Whatever the hell had just happened it was certainly no ordinary dream experience.

The face! It was the face of Harpocrates from Crowley's "Aeon" Tarot Trump and it was also Surlok's own face. Get Kenneth Grant's "The Magical Revival" off the shelf. Set-Horus etc. Harpocrates-Hoor Paar Kraat-Set. The concealed aspect of Horus. The Hidden God. Sirius. The form of Horus in Crowley's "The Book of the Law" is Hru-Machis. A twin form with Horus/Ra Hoor Khuit and Set/Hoor Paar Kraat/Harpocrates as its dual aspects. Surlok was already into the Harpocrates form. "Applied to man, these twins embody the idea of the soul and the spirit. The soul is the astral shade, the stellar light in darkness represented by Set and Sirius, the spirit is the solar body of light, represented by the sun. One is of the night, the other of the day." Harpocrates God of Silence seated on a lotus. "The active form of silence...is typified by the secret creativity which operates in the darkness and solitude of gestation." All through 1992 Surlok had got progressively further into the "Aeon" card. Now, amazingly, he'd experienced it as a living reality. This card has been "Judgement" in old Aeon decks. Dead coming forth from tombs. Angels with trumpets. As a backdrop of his personal "Aeon" Surlok fancied he heard Tibetan trumpets. He recalled his skull smashing, blood drinking buddies. The realms of the Bardo. Judgement of the dead. The white light of the Void. Radiance of the Silver Star. So did he integrate his Shadow. This was his homecoming. To the Sun behind the Sun. The Hidden God. Born from the Void. Nothing would ever be the same again. For the players in this drama, Surlok, Dana and Alex this was finally it. The end of the beginning.

From left to right: Surlok, Alex and Dana
shortly before the great adventure.

Bibliography.
The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley.
The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune.
The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant.
Outside the Circles of Time by Kenneth Grant.
The Goddess of Love by Geoffrey Grigson.

When presenting Alex with the 1st draft of this article on 5/6/1993, a 33 day numerologically, which was 11:11 part 2 and 6 months to the day since receiving the Ishtar star teaching Surlok saw for the first time in Olivia Robertson's "The Call of Isis" the FOI Star and Dragon diagram showing Tiamat coiled around the Star of Ishtar with its matrix of the inner sun and 33 centres. His gonads trembled. Exactly 6 months to the day after the Avebury ritual which had provoked images of Tara at Silbury and talk of helping to bring Shambhala into the British landscape Tibetan Lama Ganchen Rinpoche presented Kalachakra Shambhala teachings of healing and purification under the protection of White Tara a few miles from Avebury. He spoke of the auspiciousness of performing this work near to such an important site at such an important time. So Ishtar and the Star teaching and Tara and the Wheel of Great Time teaching came ever nearer to blending as Surlok and Dana knew they would. Tara, after all, means "Star" and "great void".

"Love one another with burning hearts"

About the Author

Swami Amrit Surlok (aka Paul Weston) is a Psychic Questing, Reiki, Crowley, Fellowship of Isis, Adi Da, Kriya Yoga, Mother Meera, Druid, Osho, Gurdjieff, Scientology, Anthony Robbins firewalking, UFOlogical, Avalon of the Heart, 2012 kind of guy. He is author of Mysterium Artorius, published in 2007 and Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus, published in 2009. His new book Avalonian Aeon will be out sometime during 2010. Check out his blog Avalonian Aeon Publications