This is a day of mystery; it’s dedicated to warlocks, faeries, demons and all things other worldly. A day to indulge in things outside the realm of the normal and natural world; you could look into a crystal ball or read the tarot, perhaps join a clandestine society, or even get out Auntie Elsie’s old Ouija board and see if anybody is there. Personally though, I will stick to casting the runes.
Let’s forget Harry Potter and Gandalf for a moment, I’m more of an Aleistair Crowley sort of occultist.
Aleister Crowley was an English necromancer, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer. He even founded the religion and philosophy of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century. As well as being a very busy man he was probably a little bonkers, but he’s captured the imaginations of a certain kind of Englishman since then despite being hated and pilloried by just about everyone in his own time.
A BBC poll ranked him as the seventy-third greatest Briton of all time (well it was the BBC and they love an outsider). Jimmy Page was obsessed with him, amassing a huge collection of memorabilia including buying his house in
which Page claimed was haunted. Crowley
even appears on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – apparently
the Beatles were fans of his backwards chanting.
He was so well known for his badness that in 1957 one of the best films of the era included him as a character. Night of the Demon is loosely based on M.R. James’ story ‘Casting the Runes’, but so loosely that hardly any of the original tale remains other than the plot is about runes. Dr. Julian Karswell is an occultist who kills people by setting a demon on them. To do this he passes them a parchment covered with runes and, unless they can pass the parchment on to some other poor soul, the demon comes and gets them. The Karswell character was loosely based on Aleister Crowley it is claimed, although it was probably just hype for the film.
Now here’s the worrying bit for me on this the occultist day of occult days. We have a movie loosely based on one of the greatest ghost stories even written with the main character loosely based on one of the most well know occultists of all time. I love the work of M.R. James including ‘Casting the Runes’ and the film ‘Night of the Demon’ is one of my all time favourite films. Kate Bush sampled a line from the film for her track ‘The Hounds of Love – ‘It’s in the trees’ – and I’m a huge Kate Bush fan and love that track. I was also born the year the film was made. Finally my best friend was called Julian and we once drove up to Bledlow Ridge at night looking for the demon that’s said to live there.
Coincidence? I hope so because although we didn’t find the demon that night I might have been passed the runes.
I’d better check my pockets.