Alchemy and the Trickster

This is the first in a series of experimental posts, which are drawn partly from my book ‘Everyday Alchemy’. I start today with an extract adapted from the Prelude to Everyday Alchemy, and I finish with a story of encountering a mysterious stranger in shadowy Amsterdam. This is a true account of something that happened to me the year that I turned twenty-one, and which I have kept private for many years. Is that enough to entice you to read on? I hope so!

William Blake and the Moravians

William Blake – poet, artist, visionary. He’s a writer I’ve long admired, but only recently did I come across some new research which reveals the unusual source which may have inspired him in his knowledge of mystical philosophy. Lullabies, visualisations, ‘love feasts’, and a great range of hermetic and kabbalistic literature were all to be found in the Moravian Church, of which his mother Catherine was a member. Let’s take a journey through this research, accompanied by some of Blake’s stunning images, and ending with the joyful intimations of the ‘other world’ that he experienced on his death bed.

A Pixie in Bude – Pamela Colman Smith, Tarot Artist

Earlier this year, when my husband and I dived into the Castle Museum in Bude, to take shelter from the pouring rain, I discovered to my surprise that artist Pamela Colman Smith had also been a native of this Cornish town. ‘Pixie’ Pamela is best known for painting the Rider-Waite Tarot pack. It has enthralled several generations of Tarot users now – I first came across her vivid set of cards at the age of nineteen – but her own extraordinary life story has been little investigated until recently. Although she ended her days as a quiet recluse, she spent her early years as a traveller, a talented actress and singer, and a friend of famous composers and poets, as well as a hard-working and gifted artist. Her entry into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn triggered the collaboration with the esoteric scholar A. E. Waite, which led to the creation of the Tarot deck. She was also inspired by spontaneous visions which arose when she listened to music. This is just a brief resumé, and I invite you to read about her life and art in the current post.

When the Egg Cracks Open

The cracking of an egg – symbol of new life, and death of the old. From a humble decorated hen’s egg for Easter, to a cosmic egg from which hatched the Greek gods, it can both delight and alarm us. In my book ‘Everyday Alchemy’ I recount a turning point when I found myself suspended between life and death, and reflect on the ‘wake-up calls’ which reach us, perhaps from another dimension of existence.

On the Loose in Soho

Following on from the post about alchemy, and the role of Hermes as a guide and trickster spirit, I’m going to recount a story about meeting someone who fits that role rather well. This person was indeed a sharp-witted trickster, a glamorous chameleon, and a talented performer. The only thing was that at the time, I didn’t know it, and, probably, nor did he. Who am I talking about? All will become clear…