Voudon Gnosis from the Vast Future-Past: Sublimities from a Voodoo Docteur

I have been an admirer of Sean’s artwork for a long while, but like so much in the online world, you never really get to know just what lies beyond the social media postings, and artwork, until you meet someone face to face. On meeting Sean Woodward at the recent Day of Talks on Matters Typhonian (hosted by Starfire Publishing & Treadwell’s of London)  I found my online impression of Sean was somewhat incomplete. Sean sat behind me, quiet but ponderously scribbling away in his notebook as inspiration struck during the days talks.  However, it wasn’t until after the talks on Typhonian matters (please see Emma Doeve & Matthew Levi Stevens’ post for an account of the day) that Mr Woodward opened to communication. Bonding over fine Ale, I found him to be a man of great integrity, a wonderful conversationalist with a fantastic (see ‘wicked’) sense of humour.

Sean is a scholarly individual who not only ‘does the Work’ but also lives and breathes it – a true Chime Child who entered this incarnation at midnight on December 31st. It is said that those who were born within the chime hours are gifted with the eyes to see things which are usually hidden from ordinary people. This is evident in the way Sean conveys himself, particularly in his arcane writings and legendary artwork.

As Mr Edward Gauntlett most eloquently stated in the summation of his talk: “The imagination as the image-making faculty is the supreme instrument of both magician and artist.” and we certainly found this to be especially true in Sean.

So, as day concluded and the night drew in, I decided to offer these questions to him shortly after, to which he so kindly reciprocated. I happily present to you…

Voudon Gnosis from the Vast Future-Past: Sublimities from a Voodoo Docteur:

twins of the ritual design

Q: Could you describe your initial attraction to and subsequent experience of Voudon Gnosis?

A: A few years ago as I sat in the Chicago home of the Grand Hierophant Conservateur of the Rite of Memphis Misraim, Tau Ogoade-Ordeo IV, Patriach of the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua and La Couleuvre Noire, of Michael-Paul Bertiaux, author of the Voudon Gnostic Workbook[1] I had cause to reflect on the road that had led me to the initiation and consecration conferred that day.

My involvement with the Voudon Gnostic current began in the early 1980s and was in many ways linked with my interest in the work of Kenneth Grant. I had already read the first edition of Magical Revival[2] and Cults of the Shadow[3] when I saw a copy of the first edition of the Voudon Gnostic Workbook in the UK in the Ace of Wands bookshop. Ironically at the time I was deterred by the high price and production values. I would come face to face with it again a few years later in New York, unknown to me at the time, in the very place it was born, the Magickal Childe Inc bookshop. Once again I put it to one side and left with a copy of the red and gold Liber Legis!

It was Grant’s editing of Aleister Crowley’s Confessions and The Magical Record of the Beast 666 which led me to the Typhonian trilogies and working with a Typhonian Power Zone[4], one which I recently learnt had a charter from the OTOA. It demonstrated once again how the agents of the gnosis had so often been a breath away.

With the publication of the expanded edition of the Voudon Gnostic Workbook[5] I began to work with the papers more closely and quickly established a link with the Hoodoo using the opening ‘Lucky Hoodoo Grimoire[6]. In the intervening years I had worked with a wide range of disciplines including Thelema, Tibetan Vajrayana, English Witchcraft, Shinto and Tantra. I had travelled throughout the middle, far east and pacific rim and so the eclectic and wide-reaching remit of the workbook was something I had affinity with and saw this as a great strength rather than as being disjointed as many who come to experience it do. My primary and continued experience with this path is one of vibrancy and primal power. It blew away all previous experiences in a hurricane of the Hoodoo’s visitation and turned the other systems into ashen heaps of archaic rote and empty rite. It also reignited my artwork which became an offering and one which the Hoodoo feasted on happily and continuously.

Q: Would you tell us what you can about the history and magickal functions of the OTOA and LCN?

A: The OTOA and LCN[7] hold a unique transmission in their combination of the hermetic tradition of Papus[8] and the esoteric Voudon of Haiti. Following Michael Bertiaux’s time in Port-au-Prince and initiation into these mysteries[9] they were brought to America and incorporated into the teachings of the outer body, the Monastery of the Seven Rays[10].

“Michael Bertiaux once shared with me that the Haitian Spirits attached to the Jean-Maine Familie took an interest in America and thus “migrated” here. This was done via Bertiaux himself who had been selected as a Vehicle of the Spirits. These Spirits “inhabited” our Orders as a functional “Body“.[11]

As well as esoteric voodoo, these transmissions included the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraim that Papus had inherited at John Yarker’s death together with other currents such as those of the Atlantean Brotherhood of Saturn, an inner order of the Monastery of the Seven Rays. The Orders act as magical machines that enable the ingress, congress and egress of these currents. On August 15th 1973, the Monastery of the Seven Rays and OTOA accepted the Law of Thelema and female membership, becoming one of the first old aeon Orders to do so.

The OTOA and LCN are dedicated to the practice and initiation into the live and evolving tradition of European hermetic-alchemical Gnosticism and esoteric Voudon as taught in Haitian secret societies and Zobops.”[12]

vudu priestess ov the new moon

Q: How would you define your communion with the Lwa or the guardians of the tradition? Could you explain the technique that allows you to draw these powerful spiritual entities through and into your artwork?

A: This relationship with the Hoodoo, Lwa and guardians of the tradition is paramount! Without this there is no admittance into the spirit-pools, temples and treasure houses of the cultus. It has been said that this is a multi-incarnational work and such continuity does make the re-establishment of this communication easier. Once this connection is made and strengthened by initiation in the Orders, it opens the gateways to those places.  Whilst its beginnings appear simplistic in the methods of the Lucky Hoodoo Grimoire, once the connection is made, these rapidly diversify into the Gheudhe logics and Trans-Yuggothian lattices.  The moniker Workbook is itself misleading and the individual papers should be considered as such. Attempting to approach the Workbook in a linear fashion can often be deeply frustrating. This also happens with the density of the prose. It is perhaps simply a result of attempting to articulate some of these concepts which do not fit easily into Newtonian Physics or the English language. I think that this is one of the reasons that many great magicians are also artists, as the powerful entities can sometimes be better expressed in this medium.

Of all the techniques that contribute to the drawing down and through of these entities, La Prise des Yeaux is the core component. This seizing of the eyes by the spirits themselves enables the initiate to experience the Hoo Realms directly and then it is only a matter of replicating that vision. In many ways this could be understood as a possession petite, because little by little it’s easy to find their tastes and predilections becoming one’s own. This perhaps gives rise to concerns of a parasitic relationship and it is a question I am often asked following lectures. My answer is simple. There is no protective circle in the Lucky Hoodoo Grimoire, no triangle of arte in which to bind spirits. This is because there is no danger when working with the Hoodoo, they simply give their gifts in return for the things they can no longer experience themselves.

On a mundane level the creation of my artwork is surrounded by its own set of ritual and implements. My Winsor & Newton easel naturally attracts their own brushes, paints and inks. Chinese brushes and Sumi ink from backstreet specialist Malaysian shops sit alongside Liquitex paint pens and Staedtler pigment liners. More Winsor & Netwon boxes stick out below the canvases with oil sticks stacked alongside Sennelier oil pastels. In the corner my National Geographic camera bag is filled with my Nikons that both capture textures for my photo library and the finished artwork for upload or transformation into the range of prints offered via my website[13]. The Evernote app is a constant container of ideas, research and images tagged for inspiration. Notebooks of every persuasion stack against the side of a bookshelf, their pages full of biro trances. My Apple Macs bathe the studio in an eerie screensaver glow and of late the sounds of David Bowie’s Blackstar have added to the rotation of Coil’s Ape of Naples, NIN, Led Zeppelin, Fields of the Nephilim, Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, Nick Cage, Tool, The Waterboys and David Sylvian. Did I mention earlier that I cherish the eclectic?

Q: What is Voudon Technology? (And will it be on the shelves for Christmas?)

A: Let me start by quoting the SGM[14] of the OTOA-LCN, whose insights and familiarity with the dynamic nature of the gnosis and its manifestation are a constant inspiration: “Hoodoo Tech has no cultural confines. Rather it enters culture as a vehicle for its Wild and Lovely Life!”[15]

There are many aspects of esoteric technology from the cubes of the Chronozon Club[16] to the time-stations, gnostic-radionics, grimoires and peristyle of the Zobop. Many others are mentioned in the Voudon Gnostic Workbook such as the creation of magic squares and a Zobop Passport that I focused on in my recent workshop[17] at the Occult Conference, Glastonbury.

Another important technology, that will definitely be on the shelves for Christmas is that of the esoteric tarot as I have created a number of decks that encapsulate aspects of the Voudon Gnostic teachings and act as portals into the realms of the Lwa.

Q: How does Kenneth Grant’s vision of ‘The Nightside’ align with the work of the OTOA and LCN? Can you elaborate on any specific points of ‘cross-order collaboration’ with the Typhonian Order?

A: “The magick of the Spider Sorcerer is older than that of our Atlantean brothers, for it originates from the Trans-Yuggothian Priesthood of Zom, the spiritual guardians of the Zothyrians.”[18]

Much of the Nightside is analogous with the Zothyrian Empire of Universe-B and it is the work of the Voltigeurs and Spider Sorcerers of the LCN in traversing these realms that Kenneth Grant draws upon in his writings.

The astral lycanthropy of the Black Snake Cult involves not only the secret pathways of the qliphoth but a degree of willed astral projection designated the Voltigeurs, whereby all the paths of the back-side of the Tree are traversed in a jump.”[19]

Historically there have been a number of points of contact. Many of the topics were clearly of interest to both Grant and Bertiaux and their work intersects and weaves in and out of each other’s in many places. Grant was unique in having access to Monastery papers and private correspondence at a time when few outside the circles of the Hyde Park Group in Chicago knew anything of the work.

patriarch mage

 Q: Have the English OTOA-LCN and its Vudu practices evolved in accordance with the core vision of Michael Bertiaux or at variance to it?

The OTOA-LCN has evolved since its creation in the 1920s and more recently with the appointment of its current SGM, Zettelion[20]. In the past for example the Orders were distinct entities but were later unified. It continues to support the work of initiates and core tenants such as that of the LCN to “combat psychic evil”. As the engine house and eregore of the Orders are the spirit families that continue to guide them within the Zothyrian Empire, it is they who shape their evolution. The Patriarch has contributed much to the public awareness of the Orders through his publications and the numerous newsletters, papers and audio recordings[21]. He has stressed on many occasions however that these are not the finite borders of the gnosis and every initiate of the OTOA and Black Snake Cultus is encouraged to pursue their own relationship with the vision.

Q: Tell us about the brilliant Carrefour Tarot, the Tarot of the Emissary and your most recent (and yet unpublished) Gholem Tharot? (Perhaps our favourite to date!)

A: The Carrefour Tarot began at the suggestion of the OTOA-LCN Secretary[22], who had previously been unable to find an artist and initiate able to manifest the Creole Cabala Tarot of the Four Crosses. Only the titles of these 32 cards are listed in the first year Monastery papers. Being unlike a traditional tarot it seemed a daunting task but it was one that the Hoodoo soon assisted, bringing dreams which presented a landscape and interpretation of the cards. In further discussion with the SGM it was decided to double the deck, creating 32 opposing energies. The inception and meanings of this elemental deck is discussed further in The Living Atua of the  Carrefour Tarot[23]. It is similar to the nature of the Hoodoo themselves, being intrinsically elemental and has its four crosses become analogous to the guardians of the quarters. Many owners of the deck have attested to the raw power it evokes. Within the artwork I placed a number of sigils designed to make the deck bond with the owner and attune to their work when engaged in Voudon contemplation or ritual.

David Eosphorus Maples writes in Anomaly Report, 2013 “I have only had the cards in my presence for one full day and already there is much to say. From the onset of the decks arrival, I could feel the otherworldly energies that emanated from its core. What I hadn’t anticipated was the inward as well as outward pulls and influxes of the cosmological territory that had now been opened as a portal with these cards. I have theorised that these entities have their origin in the Sirius system. This theory is supported by the ever-present manifestation of a black dog. This dog sometimes appears in different forms, some resembled more of a jackal, and others simply a black dog adorned in gold jewelry. Since this contact, more and more cosmological entities have inhabited my space, making it their own. Watching, tempting and studying, these intelligences have a most inquiring nature, they seem to be as curious of me as I am of them. Portals and gateways into time and space have indeed been opened, and from both sides[24]“.

The Tarot of the Emissary was created on the framework of a traditional tarot, but one which drew upon my appointment as OTOA-LCN Emissary and incorporated various aspects of my own vuduverse which had arisen from a number of workings documented in Ontic Dreaming, Vudu Meditations, Liber Sedecim and The Sutra of ZAL[25]. These volumes as well as being magical records were created as one-off slipcase editions very much in the tradition of Andrew Chumbley’s Unique Transmission Series, of creating individually hand-written and illustrated telesmatic volumes.

The tarot included many of the visions of the Leng Mythos, of the migration of the Lwa from distant star systems, the war of the Architects with the Archon and the sorceries of Zom which I have presented in a number of short stories[26] and essays[27].

The forthcoming Gholem Tharot is a return to the format of a 78 card deck. It is the result of a request from Michael Bertiaux in 2013 to create such a deck related to the golem mysteries. These mysteries relate to the historical golem, the Saturn Gnosis and the zombie. Artistically the deck is very different from the previous two as I have drawn upon my personal photographic library to create montages for the cards.

Papus, in Tarot of the Bohemians (1889) alludes to two ways in which the mysteries of the tarot have been preserved throughout the ages “1. Secret societies, a direct continuation of the mysteries; 2. The cultus, a symbolic translation of the higher doctrines“.

As these decks originate from my own work within the cultus, they are living atua of these energies.

gholem of the sporeworlds

Q: It’s clear you have done some exceptional collaborative work with Edgar Kerval from Columbia, The Infernal Faces of Hekate being a prime example. Would you like to explain how this came about and is there anymore in the pipeline?

A: Thank you! My original involvement with Edgar was through my music project Gothick[28]. As well as the commercial albums[29] I recorded, there is a free trilogy of albums based upon the Book of the Law available[30].

Our bands appeared on a number of anthology recordings together and when he began publishing occult books I started to work more closely with him. As well as my continued regular contributions to his publications Qliphoth, Sabbatica and Noxaz, I also illustrated his first grimoire Ast-Ma-Ion which featured a set of colour postcards of the Qliphoth entities.

I also released the album Lapidis Lazvli with Edgar as Sons ov Sirius. This is an album of ritual music inspired by Aleister Crowley’s Liber VII and my own experiences with the City of the Pyramids.

The Infernal Faces of Hekate[31] was the result of work I had been undertaking with the English Witchcraft tradition and a series of visions and dream-workings as the Hecate-Frog is a key totem of the Voltigeurs. This led me to a re-interpretation of the SATOR magic square and to Hecate’s origins as the warrior woman engaged in the war with the Archons. This original aspect of her nature, retold in the Greek tales of the Titans, was something I felt had been overlooked by her transformation into the ‘Goddess of the Witches’ and something which came through strongly during the workings. I was particularly struck by the revelations concerning the SATOR square as I seemed to have become an occult archaeologist turned detective as I followed the clues and trail from medieval cathedrals to the shores of Cornwall. The deluxe boxed edition of the book, Infernal Sabbati, sold out very quickly[32] and came with a pendant and mala of onyx stones. My and Edgar’s personal copy of this has a unique pendant whose entanglement I like to think assists our collaborations. The skull and moon engraved box has become a permanent feature upon one of my altars.

As my work unfolds I continue to publish essays and artwork which illuminate its nature. I’m currently working on the Grimoire of ZAL which unites the work of Louisiana Voodoo, Lam, The Equinox, Bon-Po tantra, the Green Man and a secret angel. I’m also designing a new expanded edition of Edgar’s sigil deck, The Labyrinths ov the Primigenian Void which will be available this year.

As well as his commitment to his path of the Red Gods, I very much appreciate Edgar’s integrity and dedication to creating hand crafted quality items which reflect this, either via his writing, bookbinding, art or music.

Q: If you are willing, could you tell us what’s on Docteur Woodward’s lightning struck slab at this time?

A: It’s draped in black, sigil etched covers at the moment!

A number of the tantric elements of the Grimoire of ZAL have prompted side projects such as the recent work with the rite of Memphis-Misraim that led to a revival of the Rite of Sat B’hai, documented in the essay The Fires of Sat B’hai[33]. New music projects have been bubbling under the covers for some time, including a project with Anthony Mangicapra (Hoor-Paar-Kraat) and Charlie Martineau (Esperik Glare) as well as a further Sons ov Sirius album with Edgar. For the Gholem Tharot there is The Secret Garden of Zahul Al l’hikma[34], which unites esoteric witchcraft and plant lore with the Gholem Gnozis. I’m also considering a book of collected essays and audiobook as well as one similar to a gallery catalogue featuring my esoteric artwork.  I’m very conscious of the impact that totemic books have had on my own research and practice and it is to that model that I have looked when contemplating these new volumes. I’m also delighted to be collaborating with the Typhonian Artists Unbound group on the Nu-Isis Stele project.

Following my lecture and workshop at The Occult Conference and talks at The Day of Raising the Ancestral  Spirits[35] and Visionary Voudon[36], I’m also available to speak on these subjects and am also interested in exhibiting some of my original artwork.

Q: For someone interested in actively working towards entry into the English OTOA and LCN, what would you advise?

A: To paraphrase Michael Bertiaux in a conversation with Tau Leo, just do it! This path is for the very adventurous and brave. The official representative of the OTOA-LCN can be contacted at zettelion444@yahoo.com. In service to the Orders and the SGM I currently mentor a number of students both in the UK and internationally in America, Australia and Jamaica and I am happy to offer guidance to anyone who is committed to this work as the spirit-families will often guide them to me.

Thank you for your interest in my own art and writing.

Dr Sean Woodward, XVI⁰, 33⁰,90⁰,95⁰,96⁰,97⁰
Grand Master, Great Britain & Ireland

[1] Michael Bertiaux, Magickal Childe 1988
[2] Kenneth Grant, Muller, 1972
[3] Kenneth Grant, Muller, 1975
[4] Nephtys-Arachna Power Zone (NAPZ)
[5] Weiser, 2007
[6] First published in 1977 as Lucky Hoodoo – A Short Course in Voudoo Power Secrets by Docteur Bacalou Baca
[7] OTOA (founded in 1921)  and LCN (founded in 1922)
[8] Gérard Encausse, born in 1865
[9] In 1963/4
[10] See Vudu Cartography by Michael Bertiaux for details of his time in Haiti
[11] Coils: The Newsletter of OTOA-LCN  I.III, Zettelion
[12] Zettelion, OTO-LCN Facebook page
[13] See the Store at seanwoodward.com
[14] Sovereign Grand Master
[15] Zettelion
[16] It’s head  is Tau Choronzon VII (see the Bertiaux Tri-Order Statement, Samhain 2014)
[17] A Hyper Vudu Workshop, The Occult Conference, 2015
[18] Spider Sorcerers  of Universe B, Sean Woodward, Sabbatica
[19] Cults of the Shadow, Kenneth Grant
[20] Appointed in 2010 by the Sovereign Grand Master Absolute, Dr Courtney Willis
[21] Esoteric Lecture cassettes, Technicians of the Sacred
[22] Tau Leo
[23] Qliphoth, Transmutation Publishing
[24] The Living Atua of the Carrefour Tarot, Qliphoth
[25] Zendiq, private collection of the OTOA-LCN
[26] Such as Dreamwalker of Leng, Earthwalkers of Leng and Starwalkers of Leng
[27] E.g. The Carnival of Leng, Tarosophist International (II.IV)
[28] See gothick.bandcamp.com
[29] These include ZODIOS released by Quartier23 in Berlin
[30] From seanwoodward.com
[31] Sean Woodward & Edgar Kerval, Sirius Limited Esoterica, 2015
[32] The standard hardback edition, Kalas of the Astral Witch, is available from Edgar Kerval
[33] Qliphoth Opus V: Dreaming the Draconian Flames, Sirius Limited Esoterica, 2015
[34] Zahul Al l’hikma translates as ‘the wisdom of Saturn’
[35] Underworld Apothecary, Bath 2014
[36] An Evening with Sean Woodward, Hellfire Club, 2014