Musically, 2018 has been a high-point for Layla and I, with the release of Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) in March, to which we must give our profound thanks to Ben Goldberg and Katie von Schleicher at Ba Da Bing! Records, and to also Ben Chasny for originally introducing us. We’re so pleased with all the positive reception that the album has got, and its inclusion in a variety of end-of-year lists – of which we’d particularly like to thank The Quietus for placing us at #18!
As mentioned earlier, returning to playing live has been a revelation – it’s been nice to play a gig every few weeks – although we’ve not got further south than Birmingham… YET. Advance notice that we will be playing Manchester Folk Horror Festival on the 2nd of Feb, and the National Library of Wales as part of Listen to the Voice of Fire on 15-16 March.We also managed to record a couple of additional minor works: our cover of Coil’s Fire of the Mind, and a record of an erotic path-working which we came to call The Well Head, the latter of which is accompanied by a short text which outlines our current work of formulating an anti-essentialist approach to imagination and ritual. Imagine Israel Regardie and Michel Foucault having a child that was raised by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, perhaps… if you can.
There was one final Hawthonn appearance, as part of the Radio Free Hookland project – we did a piece called Widdershins, which you can hear at around 52 minutes in – full notes and tracklisting at the above link – worth your time – an all-star cast, so to speak:
It was also a very great pleasure to appear on Ben Chasny’s Hexadic III earlier this year – sharing the second side of the album with Stephen O’Malley: what will now be forever known as the ‘sexy, hairy men’ side of the album.
In 2019 we hope to release a single of our ‘folk pop’ project Sulis Noctis, which is Layla, Gregg Hermetech and I, with the addition of Briz Er on cello. The final musical highlight of the year was our first jam with Guttersnipe – promising sounds were made…
On the writing side of things, I am really looking forward to working with Al Cummins and Scarlet Imprint on bringing the Excellent Book of the Art of Magic into being – I believe it is a unique and important text, of vital significance to scholars and practitioners alike. Very grateful to Al for the constant nudges to get this – much delayed project – finished up.
I also had a piece included in the latest edition of the Museum of Witchcraft’s Enquiring Eye journal. I thought the first issue was so good, that I couldn’t wait to get something to them, which was in the form of a discussion of two sigils most commonly associated with Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft – although they predate that particular publication. Anyway, MWM have done a superb job on the new issue, which also includes a short piece by Al – and it only costs £3.50!!
Additionally, I wrote (and am currently writing) a few entries for Brill’s Dictionary of Contemporary Esotericism, mainly on musical figures associated with esotericism, as well as longer articles on classical and underground music. Thank you to Egil Asprem for inviting me to contribute! Which leads me to my PhD – it’s perhaps not been the most productive year for PhD study, but things are ticking along… I hope to make blog, or series of research blogs, on the topic in the future. Even the last 18 months have been hugely insightful and thought-provoking, often in ways that extend far beyond scholarship.
On a slight downer, it was a bit disappointing to get the collaborative paper on Post-Punk, Jaz Coleman, Jhonn Balance and Kenneth Grant knocked back by Popular Music Journal as part of their issue on ‘magic and music’, but I think we were coming at it from very different disciplines (e.g. esoteric studies and sociology of religion). I hope we might find time this year to revise it and submit it to a more appropriate journal.
Finally, every year I seem to read one article in particular that haunts me, and which I return to often over the succeeding months. Last year, it was Wouter J. Hanegraaf’s reflections on Gershom Scholem and Stefan Zweig – the latter of whom I had not previously heard of, but whose story profoundly affected me. This year it has been an article from 2000 by David Pan, entitled ‘The Struggle for Myth in the Nazi Period: Alfred Baeumler, Ernst Bloch, and Carl Einstein‘, which gives an overview of several approaches to the question of myth and symbol during a vital period in history, and perhaps hints at some alternatives to the subsequently dominant Romantic and Jungian paradigms. Bauemler’s emphasis on the importance of ‘symbols’ over ‘words’ as a prelude to book-burning is something that has made me particularly introspective about this ‘symbol vs logos’ dialectic found in many Romantically-influenced works of esotericism (- the Corbin and Guenon-influenced literary criticism of Kathleen Raine, for example, which has hitherto been a major influence on my outlook). In this spirit, I’d also like to recommend Jason A. Josephson-Storm’s The Problem of Disenchantment as one of my favourite reads this year: the chapter exploring the Frankfurt School and the influences drawn from Klages’ biocentrism was particularly interesting. If you want to read more, check out Egil Asprem’s review here.