A CAUTIONARY TALE
BY BARRY VAN-ASTEN
By the figurative mystery of this holy vestment, I will clothe me with
the armour of salvation in the strength of the Most High, ANCOR,
AMICAR, AMIDES, THEODONIAS, ANITOR, that so the end which
I desire may be affected, O ADONAI, through Thy strength, to Whom
be praise and glory for ever and ever.
[Prayer at Vesting. Lesser Key of Solomon.]
I have given more than enough of my time to the progress of mankind; to the little insignificancies that occupy the brain and the sorrows of the flesh and the false fluidity of mind. Perhaps out of some fool’s errand I imagined I had come to the end of my time on this planet dwelling amongst small things and appeasing my soul to the relentless thought that life expires with little care to what remains of us. Humanity had shown me nothing but cruelty and hatred and I tired desperately of it and wanted solitude and peace and beauty. And so, with little more than a snap of my fingers I disconnected from it, or at least did my utmost in trying to. I had worked hard for a hungry and tiresome manager in a small establishment in the city devoted to the corruption of society through the means of acquiring information on certain individuals who diligently broke the law. Like some caged animal with electrodes attached to my head, day in and day out answering to imbeciles who worshipped nothing except the Lord God Almighty and the Bank of England! (1) I escaped with my life and what’s left of my sanity and what money I had put aside. Fortunately some distant yet ‘much loved’ and now ‘dearly missed’ Uncle had sought the good sense and decency to expire and leave his inheritance to me! I had never known him but you can bet that I made the appropriate emotional gestures before collecting the magnanimous sum of money! I bought an old narrow boat that was moored on a quiet stretch of the canal and feverishly made it ‘sea-worthy’ so to speak. I could have easily bought a new boat or had one made to my own speculations but it takes a long time for new things to acquire character and this old boat had it in spadefuls! There was a profusion of dark wood inside which gave it the appearance of a sombre and thoughtful space; there’s just something magical about dark wood with the grain clearly showing like some ancient fossil, for it was a living being absorbing energy and it still contains that energy… as a child I could sit for hours just peering into the dark history of the wood as if it were a book open before me and it would often induce some sort of trance state, but I digress, to complement the dark wood I added colourful curtains and furnishings and framed pictures on the walls that also burst with colour but there were a few prints and illustrations I was fond of too, and along each side of the boat, in every available space actually, I had made bookshelves, again with wood stained with a deep, dark varnish to be in keeping with the rest, which contained all the authors I had read and wanted to read, such as Lawrence and Chaucer and Dickens, and Dante, amongst others. They were with me and so I did not feel alone in the long hours after dark, where a log fire kept me warm and candles burned in glass lamps. Not that I ever really felt alone for I was such a being who as a child delighted in my own company and was never bored and never idle for my mind was easily turned to occupations of an artistic nature and reading had been my greatest love and still is! I felt as if I was on the precipice of some great adventure and I would live a simple life upon the water. Of course I had many interests to fill my time, such as watercolour painting and writing poetry, if it could be called such and academic interests such as Greek mythology and studying the esoteric arts. In fact, it was through my interest in Greek mythology that I came to name my boat ‘Prometheus’. Yes, my life afloat would be a perfect idyll.I was a man of routine, each morning rising at eight and breakfasting before taking a walk and returning to continue some artistic venture I was pursuing such as painting or writing that I had begun. I kept a journal and in it I would write my thoughts and activities and all the secret little intricate eruptions of the mind that flower throughout the day; it was my companion and my confessor! Yes, it was a glorious life and little by little I grew more in my spiritual mind. Since very young I had been inquisitive about nature and religion and God and throughout my youth I made an examination of various systems and philosophies and after much deliberation and inner torment I came to the realisation that magick with its complete responsibility upon the practitioner was where my heart had drawn me! I had devoted much of my time to a strange and curious little book about the Goetic Art of Solomon and I came to study its forbidden lore, in fact it became somewhat of an obsession! (2)
Some months passed and my days were an endless rapture to me. During the day I would go on adventures and make sketches and studies of interesting things I found and during the evening and night I would write and study further my esoteric interests, beneath the boundless beauty of the moon and the stars.
Love had always been anathema to me, oh don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t some hideous monster without the capacity to love for my young mind was simply flooded by images of love and romance and it gave me the appearance of a bit of a dreamer I guess! There were a few occasions when I thought perhaps this would be the one and maybe this time I shall feel something more than just desire and actually behold something substantial but I was painfully wrong every time. There was one special person who entered my life and touched the outer limits of my soul and flourished dearly in my heart many years ago when I was just escaping the flush of my youth and I felt for the first time that magic which envelopes all life and gives meanings to dreams – she was everything to me! To think of her now is to trespass upon some sacred and beautiful vision for my heart will not relinquish her delicate wonder and my brain will not break free from the spell she cast over me!
As I said before I had made a long study of occult practices over the years and for many days I had immersed myself in Goetic Theurgy with the intention of performing a ritual and so I prepared the instruments of art according to the Lesser Key (3).
Late, one evening, I had just finished a painting of a little church I found in my wanderings when I heard a strange sound outside, on the side of the bank beneath the trees. Usually I would not concern myself with such trifles but something made me desire to know what was occurring outside and I felt a deep compulsion to investigate; I went to the stern and as I opened the door to look out I could see the lonely figure of a young woman of not more than twenty or so years in appearance, standing there in the rain, looking into the water.
‘Are you alright?’ I shouted to her but she did not appear to hear me.
I could see then that she was in some distress and was unable to answer. I went out onto the bank. Although it was quite dark beneath the trees I could see she was slight of build with a pale face and golden hair which seemed a little dirty and dishevelled. She wore a long coat which was tattered and strangely she had no shoes upon her feet.
‘Are you alright?’ I repeated, to which she replied, ‘I should not be here!’ and she let her head fall forwards and began to become unsteady upon her feet before she suddenly shook all over and seemed to regain her composure.
It was a cold night and so still having the remnants of the Samaritan in me I gestured her towards my boat and assisted her from the bank and onto the stern. Inside the fire was aglow and I offered her something to eat and drink. She seemed quite dazed by something but for all my questionings on the subject of who she was and why she was standing beside the waterside she would not or refused to speak of it. Eventually, when she began to get warm and drank some hot tea she began to speak a little:
‘Sorry to impose upon you’, she said, in almost a whisper, by the warm glow of the fire and she told me that her name was Lucinda, that she was nineteen years of age and that her father had thrown her out of his home for some reason or other that she would not disclose. I did not press her for an answer and told her she was welcome to take a hot shower if she wished and that she could stay for tonight as it was so cold outside, against my better judgement, but even I would not see some poor soul thrown to the elements when I could offer assistance. Ordinarily I would refrain from getting involved and giving assistance for many times the actions of the innocent are confused and looked upon as evil deeds which in some instances genuinely are evil, but for the most, there are fragments of compassion for one’s fellow human being, even if in small doses which do not appear too often! (7) And so Lucinda slept on the little pull-out bed which ordinarily was my sofa.
The next morning, I rose at my normal time to see the bed empty and Lucinda standing in the doorway.
‘It’s a beautiful day. Thank you for letting me stay, I appreciate your help’ she said quite despondently. There was a look about her which troubled me greatly, an indescribable loneliness, but I did not refer to it.
‘It was nothing! I did what anyone would do! Stay and have something to eat if you haven’t already?’
‘I haven’t eaten’ she said shyly, looking from my eyes, ‘you’re very kind!’ And over breakfast Lucinda slowly told me more about her life and the circumstances which led her here. Her eyes were large and sad and not once did a smile cross her face as she told me about her father who drank and didn’t understand her and never had any affection for her. Lucinda’s mother had passed away when she was a small child and so she never really knew much about her. It wasn’t long before a huge wave of emotion overcame Lucinda and she could speak no more through her tears. I said that I understood her predicament as I had also lost my mother when young but fortunately I did get to know her. I asked her what she intended to do now and she was at a loss for an answer. I said that she may stay a while, a few days or so until she feels stronger and is ready to go and sort her life out. The gratitude on her face almost resembled a smile mingled with tears and sadness, like some image of the young Christ, so much so that I felt an overwhelming strain of compassion upon me and was near the point of tears myself and so had to turn away. Seeing this, she put her hand in mine and looked long into my eyes without a word, there was nothing to say, it had been said by her eyes!
Over the next couple of days Lucinda took a great delight and interest in my painting which was very flattering and she professed some proficiency with a pencil too, sketching my likeness from time to time like some child shielding her work lest it be seen by a horrible adult! But she overcame her initial shyness and a semblance of trust was established and she redolently showed me her doodles and sketches, some of which were quite humorous and made me roar with laughter. It was in these moments that I saw her smile for the first time and seem happy; her eyes would be filled with a wondrous light and her gold shock of hair would fall to meet them in an attempt to hide her unmistakeable beauty from the world! I came to know her more and more and delighted in her company and any mention of her leaving I would sweep aside with my hand and say ‘maybe tomorrow’, but I knew ‘tomorrow’ would never come, or if it did I should feel very unhappy and lonely. Strange, I had never thought myself to be lonely until Lucinda entered my life that night, nine days ago, and to not be in her presence was to me insufferable and it seems time had no meaning for I did not want it to end. What was happening to me? A mature man of two and forty years whose every thought turned to Lucinda and her happiness and my happiness like some eager schoolgirl wanting to please the young man of her dreams! I knew full well what was happening to me but just did not want to admit it – I was falling in love with Lucinda!
As I said before, there was something strange about Lucinda, something that I could not put my finger on for try as I might to see beyond the beautiful radiance that she cast like some star, some new thought would suggest that I was being silly to suppose there was anything unusual about her. The only thing I did know for sure was that the simple pleasure of being around her, her youthful vibrancy and magnetic energy that pulled me closer and closer towards her sparked a new philosophy born within me, a philosophy of beauty, compassion and forgiveness for the human race, something that had died many, many years ago!I suppose I must have always had these feelings, deep inside me but dismissed any idle fancy in that direction as mere unwanted fantasy; I know now that I have always buried the truth within and failed to come to terms with my own personal crises, until now!
I could not tell her how I felt and my only confidant was my journal to which I poured sonnets and songs to her name like some love-struck schoolboy or third-rate romantic poet (8). What a fool! But love is a strange beast! I felt myself catching glimpses of her doing mundane things such as drinking her tea or brushing her teeth and thinking what a wonderful and sensuous young woman she was and I longed to feel her skin next to me and taste her sweet passionate lips on mine. Was it wrong to have such thoughts?
One day, I think it was the fourteenth day of knowing her, in fact, I know it was the fourteenth day of knowing her for I could relate everything to that time and could count the minutes I had known her for every day was like a year in her presence and I marked it well, anyway, on this day I came back from my walk in which I had taken a few photographs in the churchyard and I found Lucinda sitting at the table with my journal open in front of her and she was reading a poem I had composed about my feelings for her:
Lines to Lucinda
Deep in lustful wonderment
That echoed to my prayer;
I marvelled at the sacrament
And Lucinda was there!
Nights devoured by love… you came,
And days a fragrant joy –
Like a mad moth to the flame
Of Lucinda, was I!
And we rejoiced to the surrender
Of lips, a tremble to the kiss;
To delight in love so tender
And the heights of earthly bliss!
But the touch of your caress
Is God’s kiss from afar!
Lost in your sweet youthfulness –
I surrender to thee - Lucinda!
There was hardly time for pausing as the boat rocked to and fro in waves of delicious ecstasy. We continued throughout the night in each other’s arms for there was no time for sleep and the next day we were late up and we rejoiced in our thoughts together as we kissed and ascended once more to the height of passion! She was my girl, my lovely girl and the love between us was immense!
We made love at every opportunity and not a night went by in which we did not worship at the altar of our lust. We became more daring and made love in the churchyard one night beneath the moon and it did not matter that it was cold for we were hot with indescribable passion. And soon after we were even bolder and entered the church one afternoon, closing the door behind us as we sought a quiet corner to be together. We kissed furiously as we worked some magic spell within the sanctity of ‘God’s House’. I put my lips to her and felt a sensual wave sweep over me. We shrieked with pain and pleasure, there in that little church! I gazed up and my attention was caught by a little silver crucifix depicting Christ’s torment and sorrow yet I felt nothing and mocked his abstinence for the lure of earthly flesh and the delight it gives. We crept from the scene of our love-making like two drained vampires. I often imagined the vicar giving his sermon, oblivious to the pagan magic evoked within his place of worship like some unholy baptism!
Sometimes we would wander through the woods at midnight and I recall dancing by moonlight, naked and unafraid like a god and goddess of old in some ‘other-worldly’ enchantment; a furious dance of death between the trees in an open clearing that ended in our surrender to passion’s sacrament as we kissed and explored every inch of our bodies, anointed by moonlight. It was at this time that she really opened up to me and told me about that night on the bank of the canal where I first glimpsed this young Beatrice, this beautiful Artemis, like some fabled water nymph. In fact, her father was neither a drunkard nor a heartless man for it appeared he was a clergyman and his young daughter, a great disappointment to him of whom he disapproved of her ways and fancies, did not fit into his life with the church, and so brow-beaten by Christian doctrine and torn between the love for her father and for her pagan beliefs and earthly delights, she chose the latter (as if it is a choice, but the hand of fate) and she walked away from that life seeking another, but in desperation, she had come to the end of her rope and was between life and death the moment I caught sight of her; on some vast precipice from which she was about to fall. But my hands reached out to her and faith in humanity was restored (on both sides I might add)! And so we lived life aboard the Prometheus in a perfect whirl of love and devotion and nothing disturbed our world. We painted and composed long dreadful poems together and laughed and loved and cried. I did not realise at the time what an absolute fool I must have seemed but I did not care and she was young and she made me feel young again and the spirit was strong within me to withstand any abuse that came my way, but we lived the secret life for who but ourselves could understand such a strange relationship and the world of age between us! Not that we cared what people thought; what the rest of the dreadful world thought in fact for we had risen beyond such concepts as condemnation, but the secrecy was a form of our own device, a self-created deception in the magical sense which added to the supreme magical quality of our love much as catholic priests had to hide themselves away following the sacred mass which was forbidden, this ‘secrecy’ intensified our actions and our feelings!
Weeks were a whirl and nights were an endless dream… We savoured every moment together as if it would be the last and the lust between us increased in intensity and passion!
Lucinda was drawn to pagan practices and theory and she took a keen interest in the esoteric subjects I had been studying and wanted to learn more about it. She devoured my books like some hungry soul thirsting after knowledge and she seemed to grow in stature, lean and immense. She was the Priestess and Goddess that I worshipped –
‘In the moon of the woods, on the marble mount,
The dimpled dawn of the amber fount!’ (9)
Time passed as in some idyllic dream until life seemed to hold no meaning for me for she held me in complete fascination and suddenly there was a tangible darkness about her where there was only a radiant light, a darkness which was indescribable, yet fatally irresistible!Subtle changes had occurred yet I closed my mind to them and instead of confronting these I changed along with them and by gradual steps I descended into greater darkness, a darkness we both shared.
We had been performing some rituals together and we had no notion or care of consequences all of a sudden and we drifted further and further into terrible horrors of the imagination.
There was a ritual we had devised to summon some awful deity to sight. I don’t know what possessed us but we were being directed and manipulated like pawn pieces in a deadly game of chess. Perhaps my judgement was clouded, in fact I know it was but I was dealing in devilish things I should not have dabbled with! Looking into her eyes became like looking into the pit of Hell and our sexual excess became more and more outrageous and we loved with abandonment known only to those of the darkness who prey upon the living. In fact, I cannot speak of all the things we did for fear even now of reprisals; you could say we had exhausted every sin and were inventing new ones to break! I hungered for her; I ached for her but I could not hold myself from falling, the temptation was too great and Lucinda was the greatest temptation and the greatest sin of all! She had eaten into my soul and my every thought and action was centred on her alone! Hard as I tried, I could not stop this tornado I was riding! She had corrupted every fibre of my being with her lust like a vengeful demon and I could not help but think that my dealings with the Goetia were behind it all and that Lucinda was possessed of some being I had awoken!
I searched through my books and came upon an exorcism which seemed appropriate and I made some preparations while Lucinda slept. With an eager heart I began to repeat the words of the exorcism:
Si vous cherchez la morale à cette histoire, il n'y en a pas un!
1. One is said to destroy one’s soul and the other encourages financial ruin!
2. The Lesser Key of Solomon the King or ‘Lemegeton’ which gives instructions for the evocation of the seventy-two spirits who were confined in a brass vessel and cast into a deep lake by the King of Israel.
3. see The Key of Solomon the King (Clavicula Solomonis) translated and edited by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers. 1889.
4. Gomory is a powerful duke that appears as a beautiful woman, wearing a ducal crown. He discovers past, present and future, as also the whereabouts of hidden treasures; he procures the love of women and especially of girls.
5. The First Conjuration.
6. The License to Depart.
7. ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’.
8. When one mentions ‘third rate poets’ one is never far from thinking about William Wordsworth!
9. The Hymn to Pan by Aleister Crowley.
10. see the Manual of Exorcisms by the Abbe Eynatton. 1678.