She was the only exception; the one that made him believe in love again. In that moment, she had seen a kindness in him that no one else ever had. Where others had been repulsed by him, she saw a dark and twisted kind of beauty. The beauty fell in love with the the beast. This pairing is not so surprising when you remember that opposites attract.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d all but given up on finding love. It was, like a career or a social life, something which only happened to other people. This isn’t going to be another “oh, woe is me” style post (however much I may enjoy writing those). I knew it wasn’t impossible for me to find love. It’s just that, with the odds so heavily stacked against me, it didn’t seem worth the effort.

Why risk rejection when the chance of success was so slim? I’d seen the strongest man I’ve ever know reduced to tears when the woman he loved rejected him. Factor in the countless times I’ve had to watch female friends date a hunky lump of meat and then had to comfort them when he inevitably let them down. They’d always ask me afterwards why they couldn’t find a nice guy like me? Somehow, these intelligent women could never see the irony.

The thought of using magick to make someone love me had occurred to me, as it does to every occultist in their darkest moments of loneliness. The ethical implications of love spells ought to be obvious to anyone with a soul. That being said, there’s one particular objection that’s worth emphasising. Any spell that’s going to be powerful enough to make someone fall in love is going to come at a high price. You’re essentially robbing someone of their free will. As far as they’re concerned, you might as well have slipped rohypnol into their drink. When you think about it, there’s really no functional difference between the love potions of fantasy lore and date rape drugs.

If that thought alone isn’t enough to dissuade you, think about the relationship from your perspective. Love is worthless when it isn’t freely given. How’d you feel if you found out your partner was an escort, secretly being paid for by a friend? The whole point of monogamous relationships is that, out of all the people in the world that they could’ve been with, they chose you. I decided I would rather be alone than pay the price of using  magick to make someone love me.

During freshers week I met a most remarkable young woman, who happened to be just my type (what they say about the preference of gentlemen is entirely  true). As we became friends, I decided to spare myself the anguish of imagining we could have been anything more than that.


Do you know the story of Hades and Persephone? If you think you do then you have probably heard the most prevalent modern version of the myth. In that version Persephone, a fertility goddess, is kidnapped by Hades. Anyone who eats while in the underworld, be they living mortal, god or titan, must reside there forevermore. Hades, being the evil god of the Underworld, tricks Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds. Once she is trapped in his realm, he forces her to be his queen. In order to placate the wrath of the other gods, Hades reluctantly allows her to roam free for half the year. This, in case you had not guessed, is why the earth is fertile in spring and summer yet barren in autumn and winter.

In that version of the story Hades is cast in the same role as Satan in the Christian myths; the dark deceiver who rules over a realm of suffering dead. It is only in this relatively modern conception that Hades is a god of evil.  To the Ancient Greeks he was a tragic figure whose own brothers tricked him into accepting responsibility for the Underworld. While the other gods reveled in the pleasures of life on Olympus, Hades instead dedicated himself to his designated task.

Despite what Disney might think, it was the goddess Hera, not Hades, who was the malevolent enemy of the hero Hercules. Hades ruled the dead fairly; he punished the sinful and ensured the peace of the virtuous. Contrast this with Zeus, who uses his shape shifting powers to rape numerous women, and Neptune, who demands sacrifices in exchange for the safe passage of ships under what is essentially a protection racket.

There is another version of the story of Hades and Persephone, in which curiosity drives the goddess to seek out the dark and lonely God. She had been warned against eating anything while in the Underworld but then Hades offered her a bowl of pomegranate seeds. Pomegranates are a symbol of fertility, the domain of Persephone. The goddess was touched; nothing grows in the Underworld and Hades is bound to that realm so for him to procure this gift for her must have been no small feat. So it was that Persephone happily consented to be Hades’ queen. For half the year she would see to her earthly duties and then she would return to the Underworld to be with her lover.

She was the only exception; the one that made him believe in love again. In that moment, she had seen a kindness in him that no one else ever had. Where others had been repulsed by him, Persephone saw a dark and twisted kind of beauty. The goddess of fertility fell in love with the the God of the dead. This pairing is not so surprising when you remember that birth and death are inexorably linked. 

My brain had decided that it wasn’t worth my while falling in love with her but my heart apparently never got the message. We’d initially bonded over our shared love of 00’s rock music (even though she was mistaken in thinking Green Day were better than MCR). We both ate our evening meal in the refectory and fell into the habit of doing so together. One day, after we’d finished out meal, she asked if I wanted to get a drink in one of the union’s bars. Next thing I know, I’m standing outside her door on Valentines Day. Her face lights up when she sees the bunch of red roses in my hand. That’s nothing compared to her reaction when I present her with the chocolate cheesecake.

She was the only exception; the one that made him believe in love again. In that moment, she had seen a kindness in me that no one else ever had. Where others had been repulsed by me, she saw a dark and twisted kind of beauty. The emo fell in love with the bastard. This pairing should not be so surprising when you consider that misery loves company.


Elizabeth’s murderer hung from his chains like some demented puppet. It was in this basement that, in less enlightened times, Tristan’s predecessors had imprisoned victims of daemonic possession. Tristan wished it was a daemon that had killed his beloved Elizabeth. He understood the motivations of daemons better than anyone else alive but the motivations of humans remained a mystery to him. As he delivered another blow to the man’s gut, Tristan began to question how well he even knew himself. That thought was pushed to the back of his mind by the image of Elizabeth’s cold dead body.

“What is the School of Night?” Tristan demanded.

“You can’t do this to me” the man cried. “I’ve got rights.”

“My family has served the crown since the Tudors ruled England” Tristan informed him. “In return, the law looks the other way when we ask it to. When they eventually find your body out on the moors, they will not question the accidental nature of your death.”

“You’re sick” The man spat in Tristan’s face.

“You killed the only woman I have ever loved” Tristan responded. “There is nothing I could do to you which would not be justifiable.”

“You’ll never get me to talk” The man told him.

“No,” Tristan said, as Jade stepped out of the shadows “but she will.”

“What’s this?” The man asked. “Good cop, bad cop?”

“No” Tristan answered. “This is bad cop, worse cop.”

Tristan left Jade alone with the man and went straight to his study. He poured himself a glass of brandy but left it untouched. It was so very tempting to drink away the pain but doing so would have been an insult to Elizabeth’s memory. She had been teetotal, as well as being a pacifist, a vegan and everything else a decent human being could possibly be. Tristan had never met anyone who was that beautiful both inside and out. Despite his love for her, they had never been anything more than friends. He had always told himself that was because of their age difference. Now he could admit that was a lie. The reason there had never been a romantic relationship between them was that Tristan had never felt worthy of her. He regretted never telling her how he really felt but it was too late now.

“You OK boss?” Jack asked, poking his head round the door.

“No Jack” Tristan answered. “No, I am not OK.”

Damn” Jack responded. “Never known a limey to admit that. Can’t really blame you, give what’s happened. You wanting to talk about it?”

“Yes, thank you” Tristan said, gesturing towards the chair opposite. “They shot her, Jack, with a gun. They never used to carry guns.”

“You’re right about that” Jack told him. “Thought the worst we’d have to fear was a ceremonial dagger.”

“This house is covered in protective sigils to guard against magick but I never even considered putting a metal detector over the door” Tristan said. “All these unvetted guests; how could I have been so stupid?”

“You’re not stupid” Jack assured him. “It’s just that they changed the rules of the game without telling us.”

“I have grown old, Jack” Tristan mused. “I have grown too old, and you are not far behind me.”

“Don’t be daft” Jack scoffed. “Why, I’m only…”

“You turn forty in three months time” Tristan interrupted.

“Damn” Jack responded. “How’d that happen?”

“It happened with the passing of time, as it does for all mortals” Tristan answered. “Time has moved on and we have been left behind.”

“It’s not like the old days, I’ll give you that” Jack told him. “You remember that facist nut-job druid we busted during the Ice Magick Wars?”

“How could I forget?” Tristan replied. “That was a grand adventure. You had not long been in England, as I recall.”

That’s right” Jack agreed. “Hey, what about that time we teamed up with that guy with the funny accent? The blonde guy?”

“Oh, you mean the scouser?” Tristan responded. “He was quite the character. Goddess, we really are like two old men, sat here reminiscing about the good old days.”

“You’re really thinking about giving up the game?” Jack asked.

“I am not ready for the knackers yard just yet. For one thing, I cannot rest until the School of Night have been made to pay for Elizabeth’s murder” Tristan informed him. “Still, we should be thinking about the future.”

“You know I’m with you, whatever you decide” Jack told him.

“I have always been able to depend on you” Tristan said. “Thank you for that.”

“What’re kid sidekicks for, even if they are turning forty?” Jack chuckled. “So what’s the plan?”

“For fifteenth generations the task of defending England against esoteric threats has been passed down from father to son” Tristan explained. “It is too late now for me to have any hope of siring a child of my own.”

“You’ve got Jade” Jack pointed out.

“Yes, I have” Tristan agreed. “Jade will be my heir and one day she will take over my duties.”

“You’re sure she’ll want that kinda responsibility?” Jack asked.

“I am most certain that she will not want it” Tristan answered. “I did not want it when my father died and his mission passed to me. I had no choice in the matter and neither will she.”

“Think that’s a mistake but I’ll still support you” Jack told him. “Where is Jade, anyways?”

“I left her alone in the basement, questioning the prisoner” Tristan informed him.

“You’re sure that’s wise?” Jack queried.

“I love that girl; in many ways she is like the son I never had” Tristan answered. That does not change the fact that I am frightened by the things she is capable of. Like Crowley before her, she could be the best of us or she could be the worst.”

I felt quite keenly that I needed to reconnect with occultism. There was a time when every action I took and every decision I made was preceded by the casting of a spell. The latter part of last year saw me working fifty hours a week while sleeping on a camp bed each night. An unfortunate result was that I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of doing ritual magick. Now I’m excited to rediscover occultism and, in particular, to rediscover Chaos Magick.

Chaos Magick is pretty much the punk rock of occultism. It’s magick that’s all about getting results as quickly and as easily as possible. This often means you have to bend or break the rules every now and then. In many ways it’s the antithesis of Wicca; for one thing, we’ve no qualms about causing harm if the situation calls for it. There’s something pragmatic about Chaos Magick that’s always appealed to me. That’s probably because I’m from a military family. When your father fights wars for a living, you don’t tend to grow up seeing morality in black and white.

In the summer of ’79 a swarm occultists descended on Whitby, a small town on the Yorkshire coast. Someone managed to rent the house which had once played host to Bram Stoker. That house became the focal point for what would prove to be the largest gathering of occult practitioners since the Magical Battle of Britain. In the written history of occultism, that gathering would come to be known as the Whitby Conclave

They came together because they were disillusioned with magick as it was currently being practiced. The occult community of that time was dominated by pagans; Wiccans, Druids and the like. Everything else had seemingly died with Crowley, whose legacy had yet to recover from the inevitable consequences of ending your life with few friends and many enemies. Over the course of the summer, the Whitby Conclave experimented with different ways of working magick. By all accounts, nothing was considered taboo.

By the grace of the gods, no one accidentally opened a gateway to The Netherworld or awoke an Old One. What they discovered instead was that the conviction of the occultist was far more important than whatever technique they happened to be making use of. To this end, no occultist could tell another what would work best for them. They concluded that we must all walk our own path and that rules were made to be broken. What emerged was a kind of magick which was liberating where others were restrictive; Chaos Magick.

The weather in Whitby was suitably atmospheric. From Leeds, it’s close to a three hour journey by bus. To reach Whitby you’ve got to cross the North York Moors; imagine Mordor but with less sunshine. When visiting a new place, as I often am, it’s always the local museum that I visit first. I’m not talking about the tourist trap with shiny buildings, interactive exhibits and very few actual artifacts. My interest’s always in the Victorian one that’s like a cabinet of curiosities grown out of all proportions.

Whitby’s museum did not disappoint, with it’s abundance of marine fossils, Whitby jet jewelry and treasures from the South Seas. The latter were brought back by explorers at a time when the indigenous cultures which crafted them must have seemed to them as martians would to us now.

I was particularly delighted to discover a genuine Hand of Glory. For those who don’t know, it’s the mummified hand of an executed criminal. When it’s lit, either by inserting a candle into the palm or simply setting fire to the fingers, it’s said that anyone nearby is put into a deep sleep. It’s no surprise they’ve always been popular with burglars. So much in occultism is ethereal so I’m always delighted to find tangible objects like this.

In The Wicker Man, there’s a Hand of Glory placed in hero’s bedroom in an attempt to stop him discovering the orgy happening on the lawn outside. According to film and television producers, orgies play an important role in Paganism. If that’s true then I’m a little offended that no one’s ever invited me to join in.

Whitby’s the kind of place where you can wander endlessly without any real purpose, which just so happens to be my favorite pastime. My lunch was the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something. The infamous Abbey was closed to visitors but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities to visit in the future. I did get some impressive views of it, both from the far side of the valley and the viewing platform outside the hostel.

It’s fair to say that my lifetime YHA membership has paid for itself many times over. The hostel itself was one of the YHA’s very first to open. It’s main building is a grade 1 listed manor house over six centuries old, which is the sort of thing which seems to impress Americans. I spent most of the evening revising for my exams in the Georgian reading room. Given that my girlfriend studies the science of nutrition, I’m sorry to say that my dinner of deep fried black pudding and chips felt a little bit like cheating on her.

So what’s there to say about my trip to Whitby? I’m not naturally sensitive to such things but there’re places so steeped in raw magickal energy that even I can sense it unaided. Like Glastonbury and London, Whitby’s one of those places. There’s no doubt in my mind why so many lost occultists were drawn here in ’79. It’s something suggested to me by the statue of Captain Cook, which looks wistfully across the harbor and out to sea.

Whitby seems destined to always be the small step which starts the big adventure. In Cook’s place that adventure was one of exploration and in Stoker’s case it was one of literature. For the Whitby Conclave, it the adventure was a new and exciting way of doing magick.

My trip to Whiby gave me a chance to reflect on where I stand as an occultist. I now realise that my restrictive personal circumstances were a blessing in disguise. I’ve been forced to develop my skills with less ritualistic occult techniques like crafting sigils and reading tarot cards. Magick ought to fit seemlessly into my life but ritual magick too often feels like it’s an inconvenience to me. I’m thinking that, while it will a part of my occultism, Witchcraft is not my esoteric strong suit. If I’m going to advance as an occultist, it will be by developing my understanding of Chaos Magick.