Posts Tagged ‘Whitby’

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.




Posted: 01/11/2013 in Occult Theory
Tags: , , , ,

In the summer of ’79, in the sleepy Yorkshire fishing village called Whitby, a most extraordinary gathering took place. They came from far and wide but each shared one thing in common; magick. These people understood that there was more to understanding the universe than Einstein’s equations. They knew also that the western world had forgotten what magick was truly capable of. The Great Beast and his contemporaries had tried to remind them but had ultimately failed. Gardner’s Wiccans were growing in numbers but their rituals were becoming a little too much like a religion.

What was required was a new kind of magick which would possess a relevance in the coming new millennium which the ‘old ways’ did not. In the house where Bram Stoker had written Dracula they began to experiment with magick. This melting pot would come to be known as the Whitby Conclave. Liberated from the shackles of tradition they were free to explore the full potential of magick. What emerged from Whitby was something powerful, frightening and magnificent. Chaos Magick has been born.

Ask three practitioners of Chaos Magick to define it and you shall receive five answer, two of which will have changed within a week. Only a madman or a genius would attempt to write about such a subject. Fortunately I am both those things. I have devoted the past two years of my life to Chaos Magick and shall devote as many more as I am given. I first learnt of Chaos Magick when reading The Book of English Magic (a book I can not recommend highly enough). As regular reader will know I found my way to magick through rejecting first religion and then science. While I have come to have a lot of respect for Wicca it felt at the time like just another proscribed belief system. Chaos Magick, on the other hand, offered everything I had been looking for.

So what is Chaos Magick? You are probably wondering why I began with the Sex Pistols. Johnny Rotten, by his own admission, can not sing yet he is regarded as one of the greatest rock frontmen of his generation. This is because he understood that passion and conviction mattered more to people than technical profficiency. He knew that his heartfelt cries could reach people in a way that the cold perfection of Mozart did not. I have not found a better analogy for Chaos Magick than that.

Chaos Magick is about doing what is right for you. We are all individuals and it is wrong to think that any one system of practice could work for us all. There may be people who are sufficiently likeminded to consolidate their beliefs, Wiccans for example, but there will always be those who are not. For these people there is Chaos Magick. I believe what I believe for no other reaons than because it suits my purposes to do so. That may sound shallow but we each find ourselves living in an increasingly shallow world.

I have incorporated the use of Runes into my magick. Most Chaos Wizards have not. That does not make me right and them wrong. It simply reflects the fact that Runes work for me but not for them. They in turn will have aspects of their magick which would make little sense to me. This is the beauty of Chaos Magick. If you like something then do it. If you do not like something then do not do it. The only rule is that there are no rules. Perhaps it is so difficult to define Chaos Magick because it does not truly exist. Perhaps it is simply shorthand for being true to yourself.