The Welsh Occult Conference 2018

The Welsh Occult Conference 2018 June 7, 2018
Exterior of St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Powys, Wales. Photograph: Ian Chambers

On Saturday, 2nd June, we made our merry way to the debut of what is hoped to be a long lasting occult conference in Powys, Wales. The Welsh Occult Conference is organised by author and alchemist Gary St. Michael Nottingham, who previously had been the force behind the tremendously successful Ludlow Esoteric Conference. It was glorious, then, to see his return in this debut conference in beautiful rural Wales. Despite the occasional setback, my understanding partner and I arrived in Montgomery just in time to hear the end of the first speaker.

Following this, and with brief respite from travels, we were fortunate enough to meet up with Cymrae’s Corner, who shared with us her and her companion’s troubles in getting there too. As was remarked , perhaps ‘mercury retrograde’ was causing disruption as vehicular shenanigans were definitely an issue for many, it would appear. After a quick browse of the stalls, it was time for Jake Stratton-Kent to take the stage and beguile us with the Greek Magical Papyri.

Jake Stratton-Kent delivering his talk on the Greek Magical Papyri at the Welsh Occult Conference. Photograph: Ian Chambers

Jake is Britain’s, and arguably the world’s, leading necromancer, expert on Goetia (the tradition not the book) and its history and practice. This includes, therefore, an extensive study and use of the PGM (Greek Magical Papryi) which formed the basis of his talk. In short shrift, Jake emphasised the significance of the PGM to the grimoire tradition of the Middle Ages which followed. Indeed, so enthused upon the subject was he that he veritably urged us to have resource to the translation by Dieter Betz always to hand.

It was a lively and engaging talk and, for those of us with a deep interest in the subject and practice, it was tantamount to hearing, and quizzing, a master. I happened to purchase Jake’s book on the ritual of the Headless One, a personal favourite rite in various ways, and I’m keen to see how this infamous ritual has been treated. I suspect we share a good deal in our approach and understanding of the rite.

After a break for lunch, we had the chance to enjoy the numerous opportunities for a pint and a bite to eat. Unfortunately, Gary’s caterers had shamefully let him down, and were uncontactable to add insult to injury. In true British fashion, Gary delivered the news with courtesy and apologies and the gathered occultists and enthusiasts seemed utterly unbothered by the news, only wishing the organisers well in the discourteous manner with which they had been treated.

The beautiful St Nicholas church provided a tranquil spot to browse and take a mindful moment. Nearby, the castle was alluring too and the weather proved delightful for a brisk walk, with the atmosphere imbued with the natural genius of the area.

Resting place of the Humphries family, St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Wales. Photograph: Ian Chambers

Upon our return, I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with Robert Plimer of Courtyard Alchemy. Having a passion for the works of John Dee, it was a great opportunity to discuss a subject which Robert has recently authored a book upon, The Alchemical World of Edward Kelley. In explaining the subject matter of the book, Robert explained that it was partially an attempt to salvage some of the reputation of John Dee’s scryer, who is usually so malignly treated in discussing the more famous work of Dee. An accomplished alchemist in his own right, Kelley was possessed of a genius that is rarely the topic for discussion whenever his name arises with his more popular partner in crime. Robert’s book treats here this alchemy. After a few purchases, and pleased to have made Robert’s acquaintance, and already planning a trip to one of his courses or lectures, it was time for another talk.

Sian Sibley took the stage to discuss Hecate and the oft misunderstood aspect of Her triplicity which has informed, somewhat erroneously, modern neo paganismand occultism. Sian deftly explained how the error was introduced following a correlation made by poet Robert Graves in his seminal, and sometimes difficult, text The White Goddess. In this book, Graves makes reference to Hecate in the archetype of the Maid, Mother and Crone with which we are all now so familiar. However, the perpetuation of this example has become imbedded in the psyche of many a modern witch or pagan, neglecting in the error the more fascinating and relevant trinities with which this tutelary Goddess of witchcraft is more properly associated. Indeed, Classically She was never depicted or referenced in a ‘crone aspect’ at all, most commonly being shown as a maiden, albeit with a triple aspect which omitted ‘Crone’ or ‘Hag’.

In her discussion, Sian referred to the PGM which was similarly treated in Jake Stratton-Kent’s talk, furthering the urge to acquire a copy of Dieter Betz’ translation of the monument of Classical magical praxis.

Following this was a talk by Mrs Midian, also known as Victoria Musson, who addressed that most pagan of topics, the Sacred Landscape. Victoria was a gentle and humble speaker, yet possessed of an inner strength and passion which was contagious even after the conference. In a hypnotic lecture, which was unmarred by the lack of PowerPoint, Victoria was engaging and captivating and visibly held everybody’s attention entranced. I can honestly say that Victoria’s talk was my personal favourite and she conveyed her connection with the land and the spirits which are intrinsic to it in such a powerful, yet subtly delivered, manner that you could palpably sense a spirit moving amongst us. Having been fortunate to experience a rural, farming upbringing, there was much I could relate to in Victoria’s words and sentiments. Moreover, having relocated from rural Warwickshire to suburban Surrey, an older, forgotten part of my own spirit was awakened like an old friend, who revelled in the free and visceral magic of the natural world. It had been a long time coming, but a renewal of the intuitive relationship with nature and spirits, which had been previously so important to my path, and had become superseded by the urbane intellectual sophistication so common today, was revealed in Victoria’s talk. As Victoria observed in closing, “Nature is my church and the earth my mother”.

Sadly, we had to break the spell and make our apologies before heading for the long journey home. In doing so, we were unfortunate in that we did not see Gary Nottingham’s talk and closing of the conference. That being said, it had been a most pleasurable and insightful day, a day imbued with a subtle energy which felt like a time outside of time, yet facilitated several excellent discussions, conversations and an opportunity to spend time with colleagues and fellow journeymen/women.

With thanks to Gary St Michael Nottingham and everybody involved in organising a fantastic day, as well as those lovely people met there on the day, including but not restricted to Lesley Jackson, Robert Plimer, Jake Stratton-Kent, Sian Sibley, Victoria Musson and everybody else who attended.

About Ian Chambers
Ian Chambers is a traditional witch engrossed in the study and practice of the Art as conveyed by means of the mysteries. By diligent study, research, exploration and direct application of myth and magic, the author has dedicated his life to the Work with many sacrifices along the way. Walking the lonely path, the Covenant of the Wanderer, a Child of the Land of Nod, raising the lantern by which the path of the Chapel Perilous may be illumined and the Castle perceived. You can read more about the author here.

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