Friday, 7 July 2017

Scarlet Imprint at 10

A personal recapitulation.

My first contact with Scarlet Imprint came from either an email, or a post on Lashtal (I can’t remember which), announcing the imminent publication of the first edition of The Red Goddess in 2007. Shortly after I was at fellow bookdealer Ben Fernee’s house and we discussed who these young upstarts might be who were confident enough to produce a limited edition book of 156 copies at an “above average” price (how naive that seems now). Needless to say, the book sold out in short order an was re-issued a year later. I still have my seal and rose petals which came with the book, though the simple cardboard slipcase has seen better days…

Having recently reread The Red Goddess on holiday in Devon (mainly on beaches), I was struck by the sheer exuberance of the writing. It is confidence born of practice. This is not a speculative enquiry into the nature of Babalon, THIS IS HOW IT IS, Babalon at last wrested from the chains of Thelema. Things have never been quite the same since (though there have been subsequent attempts to recompartmentalize Her).

A year later I finally got to meet Peter and Alkistis in the flesh at The Thelemic Symposium at Oxford (the notorious scout hut gathering). After their joint talk my partner and I went and said hello. I must admit to some trepidation at this initial meeting because even at this early stage it was obvious there was something different about them. They were making assertions that did not sit well with followers of the status quo. I like to think we instantly bonded over our mutual outrage at asinine comments by another speaker (something to the effect of “All this Babalon business is well and good, but your views will change when you have children…”)

Since that first encounter we have become friends and I have no hesitation in saying that the Scarlets are my favourite people. I love Alkistis. I love her fierce intelligence, her ‘oh so polite’ way of destroying someone’s weak arguments. An accomplished writer and editor, a butoh performer of increasing renown and a typographer par excellence (Gods, I’ve not even raved about the quality of SI books yet! Paper gsms that make other publishers weep for their mommas, fonts that will make you come, an understanding of form and content that got a least one of their titles nominated for a national award…) Do I have a man crush on Peter? Well, I like to be in his company as much as possible and I aspire to be like him, is that the same thing? Peter wrote one of my favourite books (see below) so of course he’s a hero. Whenever I get to meet and talk with the Scarlets, my note to self is always “raise your game.” To steal a quote from some Jack Nicholson film “The Scarlets make me want to be a better occultist.”

At this point it would be a trite to say Scarlet Imprint changed my life…but Scarlet Imprint changed my life. Over the last 10 years their 26 titles have pretty much reframed both my personal practice and the wider esoteric landscape. The anthologies Howlings, Devoted, Diabolical, At The Crossroads, Reasonances and Serpent Songs are go to sources for a snapshot of current magical thinking. Jake Stratton-Kent’s masterful Encyclopaedia Goetica trilogy has single handedly redefined how magic should be contextualised, in this instance firmly placing the roots of Goetia in the Ancient World. Peter Mark Adams The Game of Saturn and Gordon White’s Star.Ships perform a similar function. If we what to understand where we are now and where we should go we have to look at where we’ve been and reconnect to it. Politics features in many of their titles but more specifically in The Blood of The Earth and XVI. The argument that “I practice witchcraft but I don’t do politics” seems increasingly redundant (I carry a copy of The Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft in my back pocket). Nicholaj Frisvold’s 4 titles (Palo Mayombe, Pomba Gira, Exu and Ifa) have done much in bringing the ATRs to a wider audience. The poetry and play collections (Mandragora, Datura, Tara Morgana, Seeking Faust, Babalon) have shown that occultism is not a disconnected ghetto (as someone once told me) but feeds into every part of life and culture (occulture). Then there are Peter Grey’s 3 books. The Red Goddess started it all. I stand by my contention that Apocalyptic Witchcraft is the most important work on witchcraft in the 21st century. (Want more gushing? Go here. Lucifer Princeps is of course about Lucifer but so much more, an explosion of information; Divine Kingship, Sacred mountains, the Rephaim, the Nephilim, Azazel, the sacrificial goat, magical horse bits, marrow as kundalini… Lucifer Praxis is forthcoming.

There’s also the talks. Something I noticed after the third or forth event I attended is that the Scarlets never give the same talk twice (and I have sat through enough mind-numbing retreads to last a lifetime) Each talk is crafted to be relevant to the event being held and stands as an essay in its own right, but then most of you will know that because the talks are subsequently posted online, for free. If you want to see them speak, check out their youtube channel which has several talks, including ones from the two conferences they organised in Brighton. I only managed to attend the first one, but have fond memories of Luciferian attire, my first viewing of a Butoh performance and honey, lots of honey….

It’s not too late to join the party. The vast majority of their titles are available in bibliotheque rouge paperback editions at more than reasonable prices. Scarlet Imprint’s stated goal is to inspire “an artistic and intellectual revivification in modern magical practice” My view is that we wouldn’t be having the dialogues we are today if it wasn’t for Scarlet Imprint. It seems the next 10 years are going to be significantly tougher than the previous 10, but I believe they are up for the challenge. Scarlet Imprint make beautiful books for the end of the world.