Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Colvin Letters

A facsimile of the following correspondence was submitted to the editors of Project Praeterlimina on the 21st of June of 2016, via a friend and supporter of the project, who currently resides in Suffolk. While they have declined to name the source of this information, we believe the account to be genuine, and thus reproduce the document here in full.

***

The following letters come from the papers of my late father, Professor Philip Webster, and consist of one half of the correspondence between him and his sometime colleague, Dr Alan Owens. The letters cover the period from July to December 1978, and are primarily addressed from either a Cambridge college at which he was a fellow for English, and later from Hellesdon Hospital. The name of the college has been obscured, as has that of my father’s University, for reasons of respect - however both could be discovered with the most cursory of research.

The collaborative work of Webster and Owens is unlikely to need introduction to readers of this journal. I hope you these more personal papers of interest.

Cambridge
29th June, 1978

Dear Philip,

Thank you for the tip. Naturally, Magdalene were unwilling to let an outsider like me rifle their archives, but the book was there, even if they didn’t let me take it out with me. This brings our number of confirmed copies to eight, although the British Library is still holding out on me. Don’t suppose the Bod has been any more forthcoming for you?

As to your questions about permissions, you’re right, it is a thorny proposition. If Colvin’s still living, I suppose we could contact him directly, although he must be well in to his seventies by now. If he’s dead, or worse, impossibly frail, then we’re a little stymied. In the absence of a publisher and agent, we’re left with executors and powers of attorney and I doubt they’d have any idea of the importance of our work. While Colvin himself was clearly a man of some discernment, so many are moved by the most prurient of sensationalism when it comes to our field. Raise such topics outside of the most rarefied academic circles and you’ll see that we’ve barely washed the dust of the inquisition from our feet.

Cantebrigia - Braun & Hogenberg 1575.
Although, frankly, the ignorance of even our contemporaries begins to depress me. Even certain of my colleagues can’t seem to escape the taint of it, and the students? Dressing up like Golden Dawn initiates and messing about with Rider Waite decks. And have you heard the kind of babble they’re touting as poetry these days? If I’m honest, old man, literature is doomed and civilisation along with it.

Still, one must do one’s best to stay above the rising tide of barbarity. Do tell me if you have any luck tracing our man in ‘Zumerzet’ - I’m afraid Devon was a dead end.

Do give my regards to Ellie and the boys.

Your friend,

Alan

***


Cambridge
14th July

Philip!

Harton Harbour? Never heard of the place. I don’t know how you found it, but you’re a marvel. I suppose I ought to look up the nearest records office.

Will write soon.

Yours,

Alan

***

Bristol
20th August

Dear Philip,

I write this from Bristol, at last heading home. You would not credit the slowness of these West Country clerks. All the same, after endless delays and tribulations, I managed to access some local records. We have our man: Francis Lucas himself, son of Lucas Reginald, rector of this parish, and Harriet Cordelia, née Cartwright. Born, if you care to know it, in the year of our Lord 1901, with the century in fact, although most are too ignorant to know it. Departed this life…

Sorry for the ellipsis, old man, but the page is left blank! The old boy’s still with us. Whether he’s compos mentis is another matter entirely, and as to reminding him of his youthful literary endeavours, well, I don’t suspect we can afford complacency. He never did publish again.

The more I think of it, the more I mislike the idea of including him in the anthology. People will just skim over him to get to the bigger names, and Colvin deserves more than that. Between us, surely we can cause enough agitation in our respective circles to bring him into the canon a little more. As you’re at one of the more glass-plate places, you could probably even draw up one of your gloriously lurid course titles and shoe-horn him in to it for the perusal of the undergraduates. Magdalene would have to give you access for that, wouldn’t they?

All the best,

Alan.

***

Cambridge
26th July

Philip, my dear fellow, you know I didn’t mean it that way. I’d gladly run a lecture series on the mid-century occultists if those awful old women in the faculty would ever pass it. I’m half tempted to take a job in one of these newer places myself. Besides, it’s hardly as though you’re teaching in a poly-technic like poor old Harrison, is it?

Consider me justly chastened, and forgive me, for I bring wondrous tidings. A jaunt down to Oxford on quite unrelated business brought the surprising revelation that Colvin was an undergraduate at our fondly despised neighbour. How did I come by this extraordinary news? Well, I was reminiscing with the Rev. Darby about our old escapades (and if the memory of pelting Darby with egg and flour after Finals doesn’t still your wrath, I don’t know what will) and hashing over our current frustrations when I dropped the name. Turns out that our mark was an alumni at that same despised PPH that suffered so much of our night-time mischief. What possessed a liberal minded heretic like Colvin to enter its pious walls is a true mystery, but it appears he could bear the place little better than we. He was sent down in ’21 for reasons that were apparently too delicate to record.

1921. If I recall rightly, that’s the year that his Father died, and the year he published. You know, I can’t help but ask myself if this doesn’t lay our mystery quite to rest. The godly types at the Private Hall couldn’t approve of the verse and sent him down, and the shame of it was enough to send the pater through the veil. Come to think of it, some of those poems would have been pretty stern stuff for a rural Victorian, too. Overcome with remorse, Colvin (fils) lays down his pen and takes up the life of quite country gentleman.

As a theory, it fits all the facts, but it is a little disappointing if our hero is just another profligate with no staying power.

Don’t suppose it would be too much to ask my talented, erudite and far-more-worthy-than-I colleague to prise some information from suspicious yokels while on his well deserved vac? You should have my solemn word that I will spend those same glorious summer days trawling through these tedious records once more.

Yours, in contrition,

Alan Owens

***


Cambridge
29th July,

Philip,

I knew I could count on you. Love to your beautiful spouse and the prodigies that are your young.

Alan.


***


Cambridge
24th August,

Dear Philip,

Yes, you’re quite right. My image of the contrite son misses the mark entirely. Really, what you tell me is shocking, if - and I do have to say this, old man - if even a quarter of it is true. Yet, I can’t fool myself that you are taken in entirely by the local mythology. You told me yourself how it was when you were writing that book on the Order of the Friars of St Francis - these ‘old boys’ have long memories and the whiff of brimstone always excites them. I know Colvin doesn’t fit your conventional image of a debauched nobleman making a pact with the powers infernal, but you have to remember that whatever shocks he has given their sensibilities will far fresher than anything Dashwood and his pals could manage. Nevertheless, the backwardness of that corner of the world never ceases to surprise me.

As to this other matter, my dear fellow, have you been sampling a little too liberally of the local scrumpy? If the old man’s still alive, then he’s pushing eighty. If he’s standing at all, he’ll be stuck in a bathchair, not cavorting naked on the moors by the light of the full moon. Either your rustics are reverting to their tribal state, ploughing cats in to their earth and walling up virgins, or - more realistically - pulling your leg. You mustn’t let them take advantage of you so. No wonder you couldn’t find the house.

All the same, I have to say that I’m beginning to regret taking up the project. Deathless despoiler of local virgins or not, Colvin seems a thoroughly unpleasant piece of work. Did you know he somehow dodged his call up ‘42? Smart idea of yours, checking his military record - but there isn’t one. Just a note stating he’s unfit on mental health grounds, but no evidence of a hearing or examination. All the same, he was apparently sound enough of mind to adopt a child in ’46.

I don’t know, Philip. My father was a POW in Changi, and he was about Colvin’s age. It feels as though I can’t forgive a man who ducked out of conflict like that. Of course, some forms of thaumaturgy do proscribe violence, but the man did nothing. He made no plea of conscientious objection, did no work on the land. Apart from those Military Police records and these adoption papers, it’s as though he died in ’39, and even the M.P never saw him.

We’re down to one lead, and I don’t know if I have the heart to follow it: the boy he adopted, Emmanuel Dean.

To tell the truth, thought, I wish I’d listened to you a year ago and left this side of the project in the dust. Janice is worrying about my health again - you know how she gets.

Sorry to pay you so poorly for your exuberant letter. I wish I could be more cheerful for you.

Our love to Ellie and the boys,

Alan.

***

Cambridge
31st August
Dear Philip,

No, nothing for you to worry about, just a touch of insomnia, and maybe a brush of angina - you know how pater suffered from it in later life. Probably just the wear and tear of Trinity catching up with me - you know how it takes one.

You’re right, of course, it would be utter vanity to abandon the hunt now. No chance we’ll get the permissions in time for the anthology, but that isn’t really the interest here. Whatever I might think of the man personally, his poetry still rings in my head at night, as I somehow know it does in yours. After all these years, I find I barely recall any of it, except where it catches me, on the edge of sleep. I still wake, sometimes, feeling as though that little green book had just left my hands, as though I had been lost in it once again.

I managed to chase the necessary threads on Dean - you were asking if he merited any mention in the records? Well, he’s all over them! Theft, assault, desertion under fire, molestation of a minor - he seems even more of a rotter than his adoptive father. Most of his adult life has been lived in various prisons. He was even brought in on a charge of kidnapping, although nothing was ever proven.
Questioning some of the more unorthodox contacts I’ve made in my time, I am also informed that the worst things Dean’s done have never been exposed to justice. What’s more, people wouldn’t tell me things outright, would only hint at them. These people were scared of him, Philip, and believe me, these are not the kind of people who would take

[here there is a blank line in the letter]

Speak of the devil, as they say, but I’ve just been called away to the Master’s Office for something of a slapped wrist about my use of research budgets to approach the criminal classes. Forced to admit that this particular avenue of academic endeavour was not one I had cleared with Powers that Be. There’s just no license for ingenuity any longer. Bureaucracy everywhere! Are things any better where you are?

Anyway, as I’ve already sent a letter to Dean through my contacts, there’s nothing the mother hen can do about it!

Still having the devil of a time sleeping, but I suspect that’s just the creeping onset of mortality. Hope things are well.

Yours,

Alan.

***


Cambridge
4th September

Philip,

Our fish took the bait! Dean agrees to speak to me about Colvin. Should be seeing him a week Thursday. You were right to press me. Await my letter with baited breath!
Alan

Cambridge
10th October

Dear Philip,

While I feel obliged to thank you for you kind letter of the 18th, I must insist you don’t seal your post after partaking so liberally of your institution’s cellars. It’s a simple enough mistake to mis-address a letter when inebriated, especially if two such dear friends share a name. I must say, I am a little curious as to the identity of this other Alan - I’m sure he’s a capital fellow, but what is he researching with a modus operandi like that? Post-war deprivation in the East End?

Nevertheless, it made a most novel addition to my morning’s post. Curious that you’re collaborating with him, too - send me a copy when it’s done. If you’re curious, our little anthology is coming along nicely, just waiting on the last permissions.

Love to Ellie and the boys. Do write again when you’re sober.

All the best,

Alan

***


Cambridge
19th October

Philip,

I could honestly do without you adding your voice to the chorus suggesting that I’m cracking under the strain. What strain, may I ask you? The new crop of undergraduates are no more stupid than usual and the faculty are obstructive and obsolete, but I’d expect your support at least.

Frankly, I’ve had a beastly week of it, what with these accusations of misuse of research funds an no wonder I’m barely sleeping. To get a letter from you carping on about this fellow Colvin and a non-existent book of verse is the last thing I need. You’ve really no cause to impugn my mental health as well.

Yours in the very pink,

Alan.

***


Cambridge
1st November

Dear Philip,

No, you were quite right to destroy that poisonous thing I sent you last. I don’t know what came over me. Indeed, as I write this, I sit in my bedroom, quite discomposed. I received your far too kind letter this morning, of course, and am, as ever, indebted to your generous and forgiving spirit. Indeed, so precious were your words to me that I felt compelled to question the incontrovertible evidence of my own memories, and to see if I did request the book you mention from Magdalene.

At a quarter to ten, I left my rooms, quite determined, and I recall wrangling for the predictable length of time with the librarian as to whether I should be allowed to see my own bloody records or no, and I remember, too, that the damned fellow capitulated, but after that?

Philip, in all honesty, the next thing I remember is staring at the flames as my study blazed away. If dear Janice hadn’t walked in when she did, I dread to think what would have happened. Even so, the blow is quite enough; my books, notes, certificates, photographs, all your precious correspondence, even that ridiculous electrical typewriter which Janice insisted I buy, all of it quite lost. The only thing I was able to salvage is what looks terribly like a carbon copy of my research history at Magdalene.

The police have been awfully decent and no-one has said the word ‘arson’ but I know what they’re thinking. I just wish I could remember. It’s so blasted hard to think straight with these headaches and I swear I haven’t had a decent night’s rest in months. Perhaps I am going barmy. You must promise to tell me if I am, Philip.

What I can’t shake from my had, though, is a horrible image - two images, perhaps - of a man murdered where no feet will walk by him and something terrible, something old and terrible, birthed from the red flesh of a yew.
Send me comfort, Philip,
Alan.

[Below is a telegram dated 2nd November, sent from Dr Alan Owens, of - College, Cambridge, to Professor Philip Webster]

PHILIP I REMEMBER STOP BURN THE PHOTOGRAPHS STOP PICTURES MEAN HE CAN HARM YOU STOP DID YOU TOUCH BOOK OR ONLY ME STOP REPLY IMMEDIATELY STOP

***

Hellesdon Hospital, c. 2005.
Hellesdon Hospital
20th November

Dear Philip

Thank you for your kind letter. The nightmares are much better since they’ve had me under sedation here. I think, to a mind as ordered as mine, the blackouts are by far the most terrifying of this whole business, although I doubt you or Janice would agree with me. I swear that I don’t recall sending that telegraph, and as to the other business?

I suppose that we are all capable of violence, but it is disturbing to have it confirmed in such a way. You were right to call the police, never doubt that. Be assured that I harbour no resentment towards you.

My hands have almost healed, thank you, although I apologise if the writing is something of a scrawl. Janice seems well, too, from what little I see of her. She’s returned to her mother’s house, hence my confinement here and not closer to Cambridge. She visits when she can, although she seems rather fearful of me. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised - her forgiveness is more than I deserve.
The folk here are very decent, and too professional to let any suspicion show. My only complaint is the paucity of resources for the mind. It leaves me restless.

You will visit soon, won’t you? Please believe I bear you no ill will.

Your faithful friend,
Alan

***

Hellesdon Hospital
4th December
Thank you for the books, Philip, you’re a true friend.

Days here have reached a dull sort of routine. Everything is so very muzzy and far away, but I expect that is the anti-psychotics.

The problem is, I wake up in the night, and I feel that he’s watching me. Just there, at the end of my bed. The nurses tell me again and again that no-one could get in and, of course, they are right. They must be used to such things. All the same, I often go to try the door only to find, yes, it’s locked and there’s no-way he could get in with me. Yet, the moment I’m back in my bed again, there he is, waiting.

That’s the hardest part of it. He’s waiting. For what, I don’t know. I’m barely sleeping at all now, and I know if it weren’t for the pills they give me to numb my hands, the headaches would be worse than ever. It’s not that the Doctors won’t give me sedatives, its just that I’m afraid to take them. If he’s standing there, waiting, while I’m awake, what would he do if I were lying helpless, unable to waken?

I feel I must be cracking up from sleep deprivation. Ha! Cracking up in the loony bin. There’ a joke for you, old man. We used to laugh so much, didn’t we, Philip? But, in all seriousness, you mustn’t let him in. Don’t let him touch your mind the way that he’s been at [this last sentence is ruled out, but still legible]

No, I’m sorry, Philip. The Doctors say that it’s just another manifestation of my paranoia and I suppose they must be right. I suppose it’s just that I’m not better yet. Still, it wouldn’t be so hard to recover if he’d give it a rest for one night. Don’t you think he would do that Philip? For one night? It’s his eyes, those terrible eyes.

Don’t come and visit, old man. Not that I wouldn’t want to see you, but, well. Won’t you humour a poor madman? Don’t bring yourself down here. Don’t let him see you.

Alan

[End of Correspondence]

***


From what I understand, Dr Alan Owens passed away scarcely 48 hours after the date upon this final later, still a patient at Hellesdon Mental Hospital. The coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure, and it is not my place to question that finding, nor to cast aspersions on the memory of a fine academic, and a man of whom I have fond recollections.

I present these letters solely for the purpose of academic enquiry. As so many of both Dr Owens and my father’s papers have been destroyed, this correspondence presents a unique opportunity to investigate an avenue which neither of them were able to follow to its conclusion. However, it should be noted that nowhere can I find a record of the mysterious book of which they wrote, not even the confirmed copy mentioned above.

I was only a child when these letters were exchanged, although I recall my father’s distress at the loss of his friend, and the long depression which followed his death. However, I must state that any connection drawn between Dr Owens’ untimely demise and my father’s own sudden and fatal illness, is in bad taste. The callous and sensationalist reports in the local press at the time, and which still circulate in some quarters of the Internet, only bring further grief to my family, and have no place in so respectable a journal as this.

Furthermore, I strongly discourage the efforts of sensation seekers wishing to link this scholarly endeavour to the recent disappearance of a young woman in Harton Harbour. The manufacture of such sinister constructions is a thing the author of these letters would have deplored, and I urge all researchers to rise above credulity and dismiss this local scaremongering.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Aftermath of Magic Part IV: Concerning Doors

The following is the transcript of an audio tape, transferred to MP3, given to Project Praeterlimina. The speaker is apparently Jack Londinium, and our source wishes to remain anonymous. If any of our readers can shed light on this odd encounter, they’re invited to contact us.
‘…I’d been talking about this for five fucking minutes before I realised that I hadn't hit the record button.
Take-fucking-two then.
April 5th, 1987.
I've been experimenting with something, ideas I pieced together from some Dion Fortune. I painted a doorway on the wall of my study. I made the borders magic-looking, like the title page of a Crowley book. The interior space I left blank, and then I filled it in black.
Once I was happy with it, I performed appropriate energising operations, charging it with orgone or vril or whatever the hell it is. Once the door was activated, I’d sit before it and try to push myself through it in a trance state, or to let something else through.
Stupid idea. Stupid idea. I’d deliberately not taken a huge number of precautions. I just wanted to see what happened if I made a doorway into…
The only wards were on the outside of my study, just to try and keep stuff from spreading into the rest of the flat. I’d decided against chemical aids. I wanted to be sure that whatever I encountered was…real, I guess.
It worked, of course. It always bloody works.
Today…yesterday, actually, was the third operation I’d attempted. I used a mantra I’d designed for astral projection, loosening things up a bit and letting me block the shit out. After about an hour, I started seeing grey shapes moving beyond the doorway. Like clouds or smoke, moving slowly, swirling. They looked like they were pulsating. They started to coalesce. They looked gelatinous, and I realised I was looking at a single entity, not a multitude.
It looked like quivering mucous, with faint lights shining in it.
The lights grew brighter. They looked like eyes.
I hadn't expected much to happen, really. The whole business was more a whim than anything else. I certainly wasn't expecting something so vivid. The borders around the doorway started becoming indistinct. It was…it was like static on a television, almost. Insubstantial. Broken. The grey mucous was coming into the world, towards me. It reached out for me. It enveloped me and drew me inside it. I could feel my body breaking down, my consciousness separating from it and it was blissful.
There were others swimming around me, other minds moving through it, around me. I could hear them, feel them. I could taste them, even, and…
I could feel aspects of my personality blurring into aspects of theirs. Swapping memories, sharing them. All of us melting together and separating out again into different forms and it was beautiful.
I didn't want to leave but I could feel that some of the other presences there did. I then started to realise how alien and old they were. I could…I remember that when my identity overlapped with theirs, their memories made perfect sense, I could absolutely understand them, but when I try and remember them now it’s…it’s like a Dali painting.
One, it was…it was like…no. No, I can’t explain it. Other than, in its memories, was an image of…the sun. I think. But…it was…
No. I can’t.
I think they realised I was new. That there was still a partially intact link back to the door, to my body that they could exploit. They started to converge on me. They could push each other back, block one another off, and they tried to invade my mind more forcefully than any of the sharing of memory and identity had been before. Some of the personalities penetrating mine were recognisably human. Others…
How some of them could even have handled a human body is beyond me…
I tried to retreat. I had still been uttering the mantra in my mind all throughout, and I reversed it. The grey mucous of that space began to thin out, the lights grew dim and the other minds disappeared.
I was looking at the doorway on the wall. It was black again, nothing beyond it. My body was cramped, sweaty. I’d pissed and shat myself at some point. I’d been there for over a day.
Before anything else, even cleaning myself up, I painted a warding sigil over the door way. I’d kept a tin of white paint handy, just in case.
I've washed and sorted myself out now. I've checked on the doorway and there’s no motion there now, the sigil is holding. I’ll go out and get some paint thinner or something to get the whole fucking thing off.
I've got some wood and a hammer and some nails somewhere. I might board the room up before I head out.’
‘April 7th, 1987.
I've been trying to figure out what happened.
I can’t find any reference to a zone like that in any of my books. I'm worried about bringing it to anyone else’s attention too soon.
I think I fell into a gap between worlds. An insubstantial area, where the worlds and planes sit upon, or are held within. I somehow pushed into it.
I realise that it was, ultimately, easy for me to get out by reversing the mantra, which leads me to wonder why the other presences, who wished to escape, hadn't done so. Perhaps they’d been there too long and had lost contact with their origin. Or they’d fallen in by accident, and simply couldn't escape again.
What a frightening idea. Disappearing into that…substance. Without even knowing what it is. I don’t think they could even die.
A Sorcerers Progress, anonymous satirical
pamphlet c. 1610 
I've destroyed the doorway. I've performed several banishing rites now. I'm considering getting an exorcist I know to come and give it a good purge but that might be overkill. I'm certainly moving out though. Perhaps put my stuff in storage and visit that Buddhist monastery in Scotland, get my head together again a little.’
‘April 12th, 1987.
I've a name to investigate: Arthur Hazyard. Although he might not have been talking about strictly speaking the same thing, it’s a better lead than anything else. But that will wait for later.
I can’t stop dreaming about it, and I need to settle down a little before I think about it too heavily again.’
This may mark the beginning of Jack Londinium’s encounter with Hazyard’s work. This is 4 years before date on the letter that another source (or possibly the same source) sent us regarding Londinium’s interest in Hazyard’s cosmology. What we may have here is a description of something not dissimilar to the Terra Praeterlimina, or some other otherworldly boundary region.
The significance of this is not to be dismissed.



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Arnold Webbley: The Subtle Architect - A Retrospective by Jack Londinium


Above: Helena Petrovna Blavastsky
Below: Aliester Crowley (in the 
ceremonial robes of the Golden Dawn)
Originally Published in Occulted Vectors Issue VII. February 1986.


***

Arnold Webbley, the founder of a property development and building company now known as Webbley & Sons’ Construction, Ltd., is a criminally underappreciated figure in the occult community. Not only did he develop his own system of magick, he also managed to piss off: 1) Madame Blavatsky, whom he dismissed as a charlatan, 2) the Golden Dawn, which he dismissed as a pretentious clique and 3) Aleister Crowley, whom he dismissed as a megalomaniac. Earning the ire of so many people is no mean feat, and Webbley deserves respect just for that. Webbley used his considerable family fortune (his father was a textiles magnate) and his own enviable business acumen to amass a staggering amount of money, which he utilised to fund his occult researches at home and abroad. His life story contains an important message that all dabblers in the esoteric should remember: it’s all very well being able to pathwork your way up the Tree of Life in one sitting, but that’s not going to help you pay for the heating...
Webbley explored almost every aspect of contemporary occultism, including Theosophy, Hermeticism and the first dribbles of mystery to come from Tibet. Although he agreed with the initial premises of Theosophy, that all existing religions and mystery schools are derivative from an original root philosophy, he found Theosophy’s claim to have rediscovered that root philosophy to be laughable. The principle teaching he took from Theosophy was the notion of other planes of existence. This notion was to become the crux of his own system, which he named ‘Subtle Architecture’.
Webbley believed that a group of likeminded adepts, if they shared a common vision and poured an enormous amount of energy and focus into it, could construct permanent structures on other planes of existence that were only accessible through altered states of consciousness. He denied that the planes of existence in question where strictly speaking the same as those explored by Theosophy, but he admitted a begrudging ‘similarity of vision’. Reading his magical diaries, we learn the Webbley experimented with ‘building’ structures on these other planes of existence and then inviting others to access and explore them. He claimed that they would often describe seeing things exactly as he had designed them, without him previously telling them what they ‘looked’ like. Webbley eventually assembled a group of Subtle Architects who would work together to design and generate increasingly complicated structures. They created a vast shared-space which some occultists still claim to be able to access.
Urban Psychogeography in Art:
The Road, Relief Print
Jemma Watts 2014.
As these structures appeared to be in some sense objective, Webbley began to wonder if they might be able to affect the material world. This can be seen as an odd precursor to what is now termed ‘psychogeography’, the study of how urban environments affect the behaviour and psychic state of their human inhabitants. Webbley postulated that certain structures collated positive energies, others negative energies, and still others acted as dissipaters or conductors. Webbley’s team of Subtle Architects began building structures which were intended to focus vortices of positive energies powerful enough to come into contact with the material world. Webbley, in his more utopian moments, seemed to believe that armies of Subtle Architects could construct vast, vast complexes in other planes to blast positive energy down onto the most violent and chaotic areas of the world. Whether or not this was ever possible, we will probably never know, as since Webbley’s death in the 50s (he was approaching 100), no one has been able to replicate his success on the grand scale his diaries and the testimonies of his Architects attest to.
Sacellum XI, Ink and Watercolour.
Jemma Watts 2012
What is known, however, is that Webbley hit upon the idea of constructing a material receiver for the immaterial energies being broadcast from the Subtle plane. The small town of Newdean was to provide him with his workshop.

There are many faceless and largely characterless towns along the South Coast. These cropped up after the First World War, intended to house veterans of the conflict and to provide them with a tranquil residence on the shore. These towns are, although perhaps not not-charming, of little note and are more-or-less identical, with the exception of Newdean. The town began life in the same way as its neighbouring suburbs, with land being sold to developers after the War. During the initial planning stages of the town, Webbley purchased a large area of land in what was to become the centre of Newdean.

On the land he purchased, he began to construct a remarkable ‘people’s palace’. Containing indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a library, classrooms, meeting rooms, and a small bar and tea room, the publically claimed purpose of the ‘Newdean Palace of Self-Betterment’ was to act as a focal point for the intellectual life and leisure time of the new town. Architecturally, the building was a combination of art-deco and, one might say, ‘schools unknown’. Perhaps predictably, the name didn't catch on and the place became known just as ‘the centre’, and the pools, tea room and bar proved substantially more popular than any other feature. In particular, the pools became known for their rejuvenating qualities. It became popular legend that a half-hour swim could add a month to your life, and that regular usage could result in a general, and generous, blossoming of prolonged good health.
Brighton Pier, west of New Dean c.1914
A wealthy clientèle  echoing how the rich had once travelled from London to Newdean’s neighbour of Brighton for the supposed revivifying effects of seawater, now flocked to the centre. Here we turn again to Webbley’s diaries: the centre was intended to be a material amplifier for positive energies being projected from another plane, directed down towards Newdean by his Subtle Structures. The indoor pool in particular was intended to act as a receiver for this energy, apparently explaining the revitalising effect of using the pool. However, within a few years, rumours began to circulate that late at night the indoor pool was being used for somewhat more debauched purposes. Indeed, the word ‘sybaritic’ was used by one newspaper at the time.
This was to the great distress of Webbley. He felt that his spiritual technology was being co-opted for dubious purposes. The energising waters apparently, and not really that surprisingly, had a strong effect on the libidos of the swimmers, and soon individuals and groups influenced by the sexual magick being promoted by Crowley and his acolytes were seeking to make rather ‘unchristian’ uses of the facilities available. Webbley had imagined that the centre would generate a general feeling of positivity and wellbeing for the inhabitants of Newdean, but as the pool was frequented more-and-more by shadowy occultists, this energy appears to have been directed away from the town. The new, unsavoury reputation of the pools lead to them becoming shunned by all but the kind of guests that Webbley dearly wished would not show up.
Plan for a Garden City of Ebenezer Howard, 1902. 
An example of the Utopian principle underlying the 
New Town movement of the early 20th century.

The story of the centre and its strange pools ends hideously. Reports from the time state that very late on 30 April, 1938 (Walpurgis Night), strange lights were seen hanging over the centre, not unlike ball lightning. The lights spread over the structure, a strange yellow glow similar to aurora borealis, and bizarre noises were heard emanating from it. This included, according to several witnesses, what seemed to be chanting in an unknown language one of them described as ‘barbarous’. The good people of Newdean decided not to investigate until the morning, where the remains of three young men and four young women were found in the inner pool, murdered in a manner so gruesome that the newspapers were supposedly forbidden from reporting the details (I was denied access to the police records for the case during my research on this piece). Two of the young women were thought to be prostitutes from nearby Brighton, but the remainder where all identified as well-known members of the occult cliques that granted the centre its bad reputation. The centre was shortly permanently closed by Webbley, who never visited Newdean again.
It is, however, still there, and still strangely intact.
The building has aged almost impossibly well, and has even been given listed status. The strange curves and angles of its architecture still seem to hum with invisible force. Newdean has not aged as well. The population is, that I saw of it, old and tired for the most part; even the youth were lethargic. The park near the centre is miserable, its plant life withered. Indeed, staying just two days in the town proved exhausting for me. My theory is that whatever it was that happened that Walpurgis Night (not even a single suspect was identified, though many members of the occult community in the South of England were interviewed) reversed Webbley’s original design. The centre stopped broadcasting vital energy to the material plane, and started drawing it in instead, and perhaps broadcasting it onto the Subtle Planes Webbley explored. Perhaps there’s something there, hovering above the strange, immaterial structures he designed, drinking it all in.
Perhaps.
-Jack L.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Visiting Ghastwych Abbey


The following is taken from a guidebook published by the Friends of Ghastwych Abbey. Dated to some time in 2003, it is the most recent version of a booklet that has appeared in circulation since 1967. The Friends of Ghastwych Abbey cite no office or official meeting place, but emails directed to them still receive enigmatic responses from a woman named Mirrig. The author of the original document is unknown, as is the printing shop from which it has been circulated, but is thought to have been a local eccentric from Jarrow called Robert Oak, now deceased. The text reads as follows:

 In his book of 1737 Churches and Ancient Sites of the British Isles, the antiquary and polymath Thomas Heveringham gave the following instructions on finding the abbey at Ghastwych:

At dawn the thirteenth day in November, leave from the hill north of Ripon, that is known as the Wyvern's Back, and thence proceed as the stones direct you . By late afternoon you shall come to a village peopled by sullen denizens, to whom the elements and the rigors of consanguinity have not been kind. The town bears no name, or if it does, it deems not to speak it, for it is a wretched place. You shall know it by a large tower in its centre that once beheld a clock. There is an ale house on the square, behind which is a small stony path leading up into the woods. Follow it, and before night has fully fallen, you will come to the door of a church. If your faith endures, you will have found the abbey at Ghastwych.”

This is, and remains, the only accurate means of finding the Abbey. Roads do not go there, and it appears on no maps. Indeed, the name of Ghastwych has been unknown in the records of the neighbouring villages since 1549, when the cult of Saint Maldora was formally dissolved by the authorities of the Church.

Built some time in the mid 9th century, Ghastwych Abbey has ever been a forbidding place – small and squat, it is built of thick brownish stone, and has but a few small windows to allow light into the interior. Yet for all that, it is an imposing structure, and to come upon it in a clearing in the centre of a great wood, is to feel at once the strange potency with which the abbey is imbued. It is a place preternaturally disposed to isolation, which in its darker days, it has welcomed like a latent gift. With the ceasing of active worship at the site, and the banishment of its devoted congregation, it seems that the dense, trackless woods, which give the abbey its name, rose up to claim it as their own.

Those woods are central to the story of Ghastwych abbey, and loom large in the legend of that saint whose earthly remains reside in its ancient stone vaults – that is, Saint Maldora. Hers is a story of loss and rediscovery, three centuries apart – three centuries which seperated her life on earth, and her ascention to sainthood. Three centuries that she would spend consigned to obscurity in those great dark woods, waiting for her story to be told. That day would come when a young nobleman named Theofric Glendryd, guided by fate and inspired by divine revelation, happened upon the resting place of the unknown saint. That day was on the thirteenth day of November, in the year eight hundred and twelve.

Legend tells of how, riding alone through those woods, he beheld a shape amongst the trees, a queer outcropping of stone. Approaching, he saw that through the roots and ivy that had overgrown the monolith in its years of perdition, there was a face, carved into the stone, and so beautifully rendered and preserved that he at first took it to be a living being. He knew then that he stood before a tomb, a stone relic of some more ancient time. And it seems that, in that moment, the saint had deemed the young man to be pure of spirit, for a great silence fell upon the woods, and the stone face began to speak to him.

The writings of Glendryd, who would himself become a great visionary, are lost to the ages. Yet what has survived in secondary accounts tells of how Maldora, despite bring born into a world of Pagan barbarism, lived a life of perfect chastity and benevolence as befitting a Christian saint. Living as a hermit in the wilds of Northumbria, she would travel between villages bringing succour to those who suffered, and with her arts, giving healing to the sick and frail. Yet there were those who despised her purity – and defiled her name, calling her 'witch' and 'harlot', and a herald of misfortune, and silently, they plotted her undoing. She was approached one night by unknown assailants, by whom she was taken and cruelly murdered.

Christ bore five wounds upon the cross, and in like fashion, Maldora would suffer. The first was the killing wound - a spear thrust below her ribs that drew her final breath. The other four, however were much more methodical, and had an air of ritual about them. Her body was separated into five segments, and scattered throughout the wild countryside thereabout. Yet even in this darkest hour, there were those whom in life she had touched, and in repaying this debt, who would see to it her story did not end here. They set out to find the four parts of her body, and it is said that these were revealed to them by angels, who descended from heaven to aid them in their search. Uniting the five segments, they beheld what would be her first miracle. When joined, the flesh miraculously fused, and her skin flushed with new life, and were it not for the still fresh wound in her side, it would seem as though she merely slept. Those followers made for her a heavy stone sarcophagus, into which they carved the image of her face; and in secret, they took this deep into the woods that would come to be known as Ghastwych, to weather the darkness of that unenlightened age.

In time, Christianity would return to the British isles, and her people would finally be ready to welcome Maldora back into the light. Theofric set forth to spread the word of her sacred name, and would dedicate the rest of his life founding the abbey on the site of her discovery. And though Theofric's writings are gone, her story can still be read through images, carved into the stone about the chapel. On the mantle above the door are carved the leaves of magwort and wormwood, which were used by Maldora as part of her healing arts, and from these emerges a hand, its fingers crossed in a gesture of benediction. Proceed further, and you will see foxes and deer cavorting between the pillars and alcoves: these were her sole companions during her years in isolation. There too, are the butchers knives that made her a martyr. Here, also, are the angels that aided her reassembly. They can be seen in the ceilings above the altar in the form that Theofric described in his visions: Headless, with wings arching forth out like great tree branches above their empty shoulders, their feet lost in the endless streaming tendrils of their long, ragged, and strangely animate robes. Beneath them can even be seen the tiny forms of men, splayed out as if in agony. These, it is said, are her murderers, struck down, as if by divine retribution.

It is not clear when Maldora was canonised as a saint, but sources suggest it came some time in the reign of Pope Gregory IV. Even so, her worship would continue for over five hundred years, until a mysterious bout of mania amongst her closest followers would bring the cult of St Maldora into disrepute. Over time, her following would be corroded further, with some even doubting the truth of her canonisation when it transpired that the letters of Pope Gregory, purported to confirm her sanctity, were found to have been devoured by rats. In time, the reformation would make saintly cults a thing of the past. History would draw a veil over the story of Ghastwych, and in time, it disappeared, lost in those great dark woods. Some say it was destroyed by tremors, or razed to the ground by agents of the church, others that it was merely lost in trackless wilderness. Some even attest that they saw it one night, consumed as if by mysterious green flames. Either way, it is gone now, but perhaps not entirely.

November the 13th is The Feast of St Maldora, and on that day, and every one since the time of her banishment, small bands of the faithful have made furtive pilgrimages to the small chapel in the woods of Ghastwych. On the hill north of Ripon, that which Heveringham calls the Wyvern's Back, there once stood two stones, and it is said that at dawn on that day, the sun would shine between them, and its beam would pick out the path that leads to the abbey. The stones are gone, but follow your shadow and you will find your path just as well.

History can only tell us so much, and its truths are vulnerable to the distortions of liars and wicked men. To know Ghastwych truly is to do as Heveringham instructs, and go there oneself. To walk that path is to walk in the footsteps of Theofric Glendryd, and know the world as he knew it on that strange day in the year eight hundred and twelve. The path is only clear to those who have faith, and to the blessed visionary Glendryd, the wet, dark, green abyss of tangling vines and sprouting thickets of wormwood and murkthorne was pierced by a blinding light that brought him thence to the woodland shrine of the blessed Maldora. Walk the path, and place your hand upon the heavy stone that marks the threshold, and the truth shall be reveal itself to you.

Men are mortal, but saints are eternal, and churches are the portals by which the past, present, and future are bridged. With her sainthood consigned to the darkness of the distant past, Maldora resides now only in that which shall be. But she will come again! She will come when her sacred name is spoken once more in reverence and awe, and the lies that curse her soul are stricken from the pages of history. Until that day is come, she resides in another place. It is not of this world, nor is it paradise, but exists beyond the very substance of the divine cosmos. Visionaries have seen it in their dreams, and they call it the Vale of Gal Migen. Here, the church sits not within a wood, but on a desolate rocky shore, by a great viscous green sea that its denizens know as Ghaal. Under a great black pall of noxious clouds, she dances endlessly upon the shale with her angelic kin, until one glorious day each year, when Saint Maldora comes back to us, as she did once before. On that day, the thirteenth of November, her church shall re-materialise back upon this plain, and the forest will open up to let her followers venture forth in adoration. This endless cycle is fated to repeat itself each year as this world turns ever faster on its axis towards Armageddon.

Until then, venture as one might to the centre of the thick woods of Ghastwych, and one may perhaps alight upon a clearing. In it, you will find no church, for this gift was taken from us when humanity turned its back on the saint. All you will find is a small gathering of stones, and a few strangley unsettling tumuli, and you will feel the chill of a place whose substance is not quite of this world.

This pamphlet was brought to you by the Friends of Ghastwych Abbey. If you are interested in becoming a Friend, or would like to find out more, visit www.ghastwichabbey.geocities.com, or email Maldora_eternal@ntlworld.com



Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Aftermath of Magic III: The Bitter Plains of Apsynthos


"The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter." - Revelation 8:11


 As we have seen in previous entries in this series, places that have known the touch of Magic are strongly linked with the presence of daemons and other such entities of malign and alien origin. Yet the mechanics of these metaphysical transgressions are such that they must necessarily have some human element in their creation. Humans are neither the most powerful entities in this universe (as few metaphysical models would not attest), nor possessed of the greatest wisdom in matters beyond its realms. Their ascendancy over other entities in the Judaeo-Christian scheme is really only a technicality. Yet in the Hazyardian model, their power is singular. Being at once fallen, yet possessed of divine grace, they are imbued with the capacity for 'Un-Creation', which links them to the outer sphere beyond even God's realm [For more on Hazyard's life and metaphysic, see our previous entry on the subject]. Thus, it is only through humans that the necessary link between the material and immaterial plains is made.

Time Immaterial: a study on the theme of 
Transmutation, photographic manipulation 
by Miriam Archer for Occulted Vectors IX.  
February 1987.
Through this interaction of spheres, it is not only possible for extra-dimensional entities to walk abroad on this earth, but also for mortal beings to traverse the immaterial plains by means of spirit flight. We know the names and deeds of various individuals who have attempted such deeds, and still more who are reputed to have tried as much. Very little is known, however, of their methods. The means of these transmaterialisations are secrets learned from dream visions and ancient sources, sciences imparted by denizens of the void, or passed down from ancient authorities. There are few today who boast of such knowledge, who are neither dead nor discredited. Yet in spite of the many implacable mysteries their history holds, it may yet be possible to re-discover these facts through their earthly remains: the aftermath of magic.


This entry, perhaps the last of our series on places affected by residual magic, deals with a place whose location or legacy are not mired in obscurity like so many others. Instead, its mystery endures, safeguarded by the very real and physical dangers that await any who should dare to venture forth and investigate the scene of the event which saw its name enshrined in history. The site is called Chernobyl, and its eerie, dead landscape saw witness to one of the greatest disasters of the 20th Century. Yet its existence has served to give precious clues that might one day bring about a rebirth of ancient occult wisdom. For better or for worse.


The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear facility in April 1986 represents one of the most singularly monolithic events in the history of the later 20th century. The death toll reached into the thousands, as Soviet engineers sacrificed their very lives to avert a still greater disaster. Since then, an area the size of a small country remains almost uninhabitable to human life, and countless citizens of the affected countries are still suffering the after effects of genetic mutations brought about by airborne radiation it brought. The effects were felt on an international scale, as clouds of irradiated gases were released into the sky, to descend across vast swathes of Europe and Asia. At times, it seemed as if World War III might break out at any moment. The events of 1986 would go on to facilitate the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Chernobyl's 'Liquidator' personnel - the white marks visible 
are where the film has decayed due to the high levels of
radiation present at the time the picture was taken.
However, another story was to emerge from the dust of the disaster - a network of strange fragmentary evidence, all but lost amidst the political turmoil engulfing the globe. The first link in the curious chain of events emerged in the first days following the explosion when an individual, known to the authorities by the name Fabienne Rozarte, was arrested by East Berlin security whilst attempting to cross the border into the West. A French national by his own account (though French authorities later failed to establish his identity), he was seized at the checkpoint when his car was found to be bearing a false license plate. Though carrying nothing to indicate any specific intent to wrongdoing, the contents of his car nonetheless proved so perplexing to security personnel that he was retained for questioning. From what investigators could ascertain, the contents were primarily electronic equipment. Engineers called in from the electronic wing of the Ministry of State Security were able to identify some of the equipment, yet their assembled contents could give little indication as to their ultimate purpose. Rozarte, for his part, was less than obliging when questioned on the matter.


In addition to a multitude of computer parts, there were found components to the receiver and amplified mechanism used in radio telescopes. There was also a rudimentary Geiger-counter apparently assembled from recycled radio parts. This last item would take on ever more worrying implications as news of the events happening in Ukraine would later emerge.

Other items found in his possession were reams of papers, many appended into a collection of books for apparent reference purposes. These volumes were largely plundered from French and Russian libraries, and dating back as early as the 17th Century. The papers themselves thought to be document caches by international spies, or perhaps informers and political activists working from within the Soviet Union. But as these were translated into German, aside from a few oblique technical manuals pertaining to the electronic equipment, it became clear that their contents were very much the same as that of the books – namely treatises on the occult sciences. Something decidedly odd was at work.


Little sense could be made of this vast collection of materials, nor any sound connection made between the documents and the miscellaneous equipment. Further investigation of the materials was cut short, as two pieces emerged from the collection – travel documents indicating a destination in northern Sweden, and a map of the area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Facility. For certain members of the security staff, this confirmed a number of rumours which had reached them from the east, leaving little doubt as to where Rozarte had begun his bizarre pilgrimage.

The Stasi Museum, formerly the headquarters of the East 
German Ministry of State Security.
In an expertly executed piece of late Cold War collaboration, this information was quietly communicated to Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and West German officials. The Swedes had been the first Western nation to detect the dramatically heightened levels of airborne radiation emanating from the USSR, and were taking every new piece of data with the utmost seriousness. Between the Swedish and East German authorities, it was generally deduced that Rozarte was planning to rendezvous with colleagues in some obscure cult, and there participate in a terrorist plot in pursuit of some perverse occult agenda. The searches carried out were as silent as they were ruthlessly thorough. It was supposed that whomever he was seeking to meet would be in possession of a corresponding collection of parts, which when assembled, would serve some malign and catastrophic purpose.

Meanwhile the suspect languished in a cell in the Ruschestraße building, and remained steadfastly silent when questioned. After a week in confinement, it became apparent that his health was in rapid decline, and he was moved to a secure hospital wing, where he was tended for worsening symptoms of a mysterious respiratory condition. Shortly afterwards, his teeth began to fall out and skin peeled from his face and arms in great rifts. This was quickly identified by doctors on site as the manifestation of latent radiation poisoning, whose effects were now at a drastically advanced stage.

It is unclear how this episode concluded, or if anything was done to follow up these discoveries. What information is known survives from the Stasi records archive, large parts of which were destroyed in 1990 with the fall of the Soviet Union and the political upheavals in East Germany. Nevertheless, certain fragments survive, whose contents bear curious suggestions as to Rozarte's true purpose. Within a month of his arrest, Fabienne Rozarte was dead. His silence was maintained until just before his death, when he would utter his final words. The nurse at his bedside possessed a reasonable grasp of French, but nonetheless struggled to make good account of much of what was said:

The forest, distant […] The head, vast, like a great projection hovering. exposed flesh, skinless, hideous. Light, that expression of madness. The face, in the beam, it was him. His soul was gone.
[…] Failed, incomplete […] Only seconds before we had to use the earthing rod […] as if the ground was boiling from below. Then it was gone. Nothing.



It would not be until eight years later that any further data would emerge which would shed more light on this odd episode. Terrorist infiltration as a cause for the disaster at Chernobyl had long been dismissed as a possibility. These were now, after all, the days of Glasnost and Perestroika, and with the USSR's subsequent climate of openness, the failings within the Chernobyl facility were widely publicised. With word of the irresponsible experiments conducted at the plant on that fateful night, and the gross underestimation of its potential effects that cost so many lives, little room was left for suspicion of terrorism, or an Engineers Plot.

Thomas Stiernhelm, photographed for the nwspaper
 Elev Nyheter, c.1993
In 1994, however, a researcher named Thomas Stiernhelm, from the University of Upsalla in Sweden, began researches which would eventually lead him to the scene of the initial spark which set in motion the events of 1986. At the time, Stiernhelm was studying for a PhD in Sociology, with a principle focus on Neo-Millenarian cult activity. It was during these investigations that he would learn of the Venangalian Society. The group was purported to have existed for over four hundred years, but owed much of its preservation to an ancient family of Heidelberg known as the Von Grunstein's. Its greatest period of activity came when the last scion of that family, a Frederick Von Gruenstein living in the U.S., found an audience for its obscure teachings in the new rising climate of nuclear paranoia and extra-terrestrial panic of the 1950s. Beyond its staunch anti-Soviet message, and evocations of a new Pan-European Renaissance, little is known of its teachings. With the death of Frederick, the society had all but disbanded, with many of its adherents finding a new home within the Church of Scientology, and other nascent New-Age movements.

Yet it would retain one staunch adherent, who would carry the Venangalian torch for another generation, and his name was Henri Rozarte. During the events of 1986, Stiernhelm had been posted as a junior technical assistant for the Swedish Säkerhetspolisen security services. Though details of the incident in Berlin were classified, and known only to top officials within the ministry of justice, the name 'Rozarte' (of unusual Greek descent) was one he was instructed to look out for. Rumour would not take long in reaching him of the true basis of their investigation. In light of what would later emerge, connection between the two would become hard to dismiss.

Prior to joining the society, Henri Rozarte had been an engineer working for the US Army telecommunications department, but came to devote almost all his time and resources to his activities with the society. It is unclear exactly what his relationship to Von Gruenstein was, but it is said that underpinning much of the philosophical beliefs of the society were a strange interweaving of obscure and often fallacious scientific principles. Von Gruenstein himself was a physicist, having completed a degree at Leipzig before attempting a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shortly before the beginning of WWII. Together they were rumoured to have conducted strange technological endeavours in the cellars of Von Gruenstein's New England mansion.


Following the dispersal of the society, Henri Rozarte would inherit much of the Von Greunstien fortune, and devoted the remainder of his life to experiment and reflection. In 1967, he would move to France, and there begin work on a book. In doing so, he would do what no head of the Venangalian Society had done in four hundred years, and make their teachings public.

Heidelberg c. 1620, where Josephus Venangalanus is said to
have lived and composed his various works.
The Venangalian society had its roots in the writings of a little known 17th century occultist known as Josephus Venangalanus. His 1610 treatise The Dreamer Wakes told of his spirit journeys taken through the medium of dream. Dreams, he stated, not merely visions limited to the mind of the sleeper, but comprised an analogue for Man's exploration of the universe through philosophy and the occult sciences. In the text, he describes an entity first written of in the (now lost) works of Lady Iphigenia of Thrace known as the Star of Artemisia. The star, often identified with the Wormwood Star in the Revelation of St John, existed as an entity outside of time and space, whose implications within the cosmic philosophy of Venangalanus would be strange and far reaching.


Rendered in meandering poetical prose, with regular invocations of classical figures and emblemata, it has often been identified as a forerunner to the equally mysterious series of Rosicrucian Manifestos, which would emerge only a decade later by a host of elusive authors. Like the manifestos, Rozarte argued, it presents a many layered message, hinting at both secret mechanisms of cosmological science, and an over-arching moral philosophy. On an abstracted moral level, the star represented a divine presence which served as a guiding light in Man's scientific and spiritual endeavours. Yet on a literal level, it served as a pole star, a light by which sorcerers and travellers beyond the void could guide their Geistfleigen or 'spirit flight'.

The Star of Artemisia, as depicted in 
the Cosmologie of Lucenzo Barbarini
c.1610.
Later parts of the treatise speak of a curious ritual that may be undertaken by an 'assemblage of the faithful and enlightened'. This is given only a very sketchy treatment in the text, with greater weight given to the spirits of the participants than the methods of the ritual. Nonetheless, Rozarte was able to tease out numerous (possible) encoded messages and oblique allusions within the text to sufficiently determine that, even if the whole of its method may not be understood from his text alone, Venangalanus was nonetheless privy to its innermost workings.

Despite the obscurity of its actual function, the objective is plain. If enacted according to the precise specifications of its creators, the outcome of this procedure would create 'a most perfect reflection of the Starre known as Artemisia within our terrestrial sphere.' With this created, it would then be possible for a sorcerer to project themselves into the void absolutely. Where before it had been a purely mental mission, limited by a multitude of factors, this procedure would allow them to travel. taking body and soul, consciousness and unconsciousness together. They would thus venture further than any other, and see greater mysteries with the utmost clarity, and thence return to earth enlightened beyond mortal measure. Venangalanus writes of various individuals whom he purports to have made such journeys, and ranks among them Moses, Zoroaster, and Hermes Trismegisthus. Yet if it were ever his intention to become another such fabled traveller, then he would appear to have failed. He would share his fate with dozens of petty alchemists who had preceded him, accidentally self immolating in the dark confines of his own laboratory.

Beyond the discovery of this little known work, Thomas Stiernhelm was to turn up only one other crucial detail in the life of Henri Rozarte. In 1963, he would marry a woman by the name of Natasha, and together they would have a son, whom they named Fabienne.


Despite the trail running cold in France (Fabienne would produce no written account of any attempts to continue his father's work or utilise his inherited ownership of the Venangalian Society), Stiernhelm's efforts would turn up further details to the curious career of Fabienne Rozarte and his connection to the events of 1986.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many hitherto secret documents were gradually declassified. Vast swathes of the secret service archives were lost, and many papers would only survive in heavily redacted forms, yet many obscure secrets would nonetheless find their way into the hands of historians and researchers. One such article came into the possession of Stiernhelm, flagged up by a colleague working within Ukraine which contained the term Венангалан: Venangalan. The name appears in a letter by an unnamed author and a redacted recipient. Nonetheless, the subjects it describes could be none other than associates of Rozarte. The passage in question reads as follows:


We spent many days in the hills and forests around Pripyat and the facility itself. We have come across countless small hamlets and lonely dwellers in tiny shacks. This is their home, so many refuse to move, even though we stress the dangers of staying. One group we met seem wholly unlike the others. They did not seem to be local, so their attachment to the place is striking. Their accents were varied, and many were literate and spoke with a cultured articulation that suggested they came from Moscow and Kiev. Not that they spoke much. It was clear they had been there for some time, in tents and primitive shelters. They were greatly irradiated, and many were so far gone they could barely speak or stand. Clearly they had been near to the facility at the time of the explosion as they sported great weals and burns. One, a blind heavyset man called Boris appeared to be a leader, but when questioned, seemed always to defer to 'The Frenchman'. This Frenchman was absent, presumably dead like so many of their group, Boris did not say. Like many, he was clearly deranged by radiation, paired with the terrible conditions in which they lived. They rambled endlessly, speaking of hideous things. Their main preoccupation was what they described as the apparition of a 'great misshapen head' that appeared for only a few moments before being 'earthed'.

That afternoon, they took Captain Nikolai Pronin to the scene where this event purportedly took place. Here, we discovered a structure, long since disused, which had once served as an external site connected to the facility. Inside there was evidence of a fire, and a scattering of damaged electrical equipment. It seemed that at the time of the fire, they had been re-routing power from the grid to power some unknown device, now either destroyed or dismantled.

My colleague, Andreas spoke ruefully of the Ilya XIII footage, which we had viewed with equal confusion the previous week. Forthis remark, he was sternly reprimanded by Pronin.

Despite this tantalising suggestion, neither Stiernhelm nor his Russian correspondent could find any trace of the mysterious Ilya XIII footage. Nonetheless, the letter gave him considerable material for reflection, and he would dwell long on its implications. In 1998, four years after the discovery of the letter, he would make his thoughts public. By now, his audience was not the academic circles of Upsallah (he had long since completed his thesis), but a new readership in a small corner of Usenet devoted to Soviet-era conspiracies. He stated:


I believe there is some veracity to those ideas espoused by Venangalan, Rozarte and Von Gruenstein, and others of that crowd. Yet perhaps it is all simply analagous to the true picture of events, a picture to which they were given an all too literal introduction. The formula remains the same: certain terrestrial phenomena have the effect of mirroring the Artemisia Star (or whatever we may call that thing beyond reality). Whether or not the cult of Venangalan were successful in their endeavour we shall not know. Their achievement was to coincide with a more perfect reflection of the Star's true nature: a nuclear explosion, a fundamental un-making of the material order of our cosmos, the very fabric of reality, (for that is what I believe this star to be). Rozart and his ilk would open the gap, or perhaps the gap was due to open at that allotted place and time (after all, it can't be called Chernobyl for nothing!). But whatever it was they bid return was drawn to a much brighter light than their own.

This would be the last Stiernhelm would speak on the subject. His apparent dejection is clear from the rambling tone of this and other entries. Yet his words were to strike a chord with a poster, who dubbed themselves Eldrytch1978. A former AV technician at an archive in Moscow, he descibed a curious piece of video tape turned up some years earlier. Entitled Ilya XIII, it appears to be taken from a camera mounted on an MF-3, a German built robot used by the “Liquidator” crews clearing radioactive materials from areas of the site too dangerous for humans to enter. This and many such robots were never retrieved, as they would gradually break down after time, their internal components irreparably corroded by the extreme quantities of radiation to which they were exposed.

The Sarcophagus - a concrete structure raised in the wake
of the explosion to contain the burning reactor core 
for the decades following the event.
The footage is unclear, plagued by interference, as well as white spots (characteristic of all footage from Chernobyl) where the videotape itself had decayed from airborne radiation. With no accompanying audio track, it shows the robot making its way into the heart of the facility, carrying a large quantity of corrupted material to an area near the reactor core. This area would, in time, be entombed in a great concrete shell, erected to contain the blaze. Yet the last 43 seconds of footage show something wholly unexpected. The camera slowly pans upwards as the robot seemingly loses balance and appears to sink into the floor. Given the structural damage of the plant, this is perhaps not unexpected. What follows is a period of blackness, and then a sudden blaze of strange lights, like illuminated clouds, from which suggestions of more concrete shapes resembling bulbous biological structures momentarily loom into view before passing into darkness. Finally the footage seems to show a blinding light just before descending into static as the feed is severed.