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Lot 89
Archive of 'magical writings' and original illustrations, [second half twentieth century]
21 June 2023, 12:00 BST
London, Knightsbridge

£6,000 - £8,000

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Archive of 'magical writings', manuscripts, typescripts, original illustrations and printed material, comprising:

i) Manuscript and typescript essays and lecture notes, including typed essays on Qabalah with manuscript amendments ("The Crown and the Kingdom" in four parts "...The ten circles, centres or concentrations of force are the Sephioth or Divine Emanation..."), Druidry and Gnosticism, "Fire and the Pyramid of Flame" ("...the progeny of Electricity... the essence of our divine ancestors, the celestial hierarchies..."), typescript of her one-act play 'The Pilgrimage', essay on Aleister Crowley ("Heaven & Earth: The Dying Kick of the Dying-God"), on ritual ("Ceremony Connected with the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram... The altar is arranged as for the Neophyte Grade of the G.D... Rose and Dagger in E., Incense, lamp and Fire-Wand in S., Cup in W.... if the pentacle is not ready, a gold coin may be substituted..."), on interior stars ("De Astris Interioribus"), a long descriptive essay on "The Isiac Tablet of Bembo", also "The Taro as Colour", "Zodiacal Rulership of the Taro Court Cards" and descriptions of 17 of the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot ("The Fool", "The High Priestess", "The Hanged Man", etc.), and much else; illustrated with some 23 original diagrams in biro, some coloured in gouache, including "The Cube" (5), the Tree of Life (10), "Tatwass Through the Day" (collection of loose coloured-paper shapes), "Taro Trumps in the Cube of Space" (4), c.244 pages, typed or written in blue or black biro on lined paper, many annotations and amendments, illustrations and diagrams in biro and gouache, mostly 4to, [undated];

ii) File of incoming correspondence, some published as appendices (Dorothy Empson, Maxwell Armfield (3), Robert Temple (3), Colin Murray of the Golden Section Order), typed article by Mrs Armer on 'Worship of the Old Deity', printed matter concerning Colquhoun's Masonic affiliations, and 4 pages of unpublished notes and diagrams, 80 pages, various sizes, etc. [1970's];

iii) Colquhoun's research material pertaining to W.B. Yeats, Maude Gonne and Ireland, including notes taken at the Yeats International Summer School at Sligo, her "Irish" address book (including those of Jack Yeats and Mrs W.B. Yeats), various photographs, maps, guidebooks, timetables etc., c.47 pages of notes, c.1966-1968; with first edition copies of Ithell Colquhoun's Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn, London and New York, 1975, one inscribed by the author to Kitty (2), The Crying of the Wind, Ireland, 1955, and The Living Stones, Cornwall, 1957, [second half twentieth century] (collection)



Until recently the surrealist works of Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) have been somewhat overshadowed by better-known contemporaries such as Leonora Carrington and Eileen Agar, but interest in her art and writing is now firmly in the ascendant. Indeed, the scholar Amy Hale has noted that Colquhoun ' becoming recognized as one of the most interesting and prolific esoteric thinkers and artists of the twentieth century...' (Amy Hale, 'The Magical Life of Ithell Colquhoun' in Nevill Drury, Pathways in Modern Western Magic, 2012) and argues that through Colquhoun's work '...we can see an interplay of themes and movements which characterizes the trajectory of certain British subcultures ranging from Surrealism to the Earth Mysteries movement and also gives us a rare insight into the thoughts and processes of a working magician...'.

The magical material in this archive, save for four pages of notes and diagrams, was gathered together and published as The Magical Writings of Ithell Colquhoun in 2007 by Steve Nichols, a copy of which is included in the lot. It serves as a complement to Colquhoun's 1974 work, Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn, her only published book on magical theory. The four essays entitled "The Crown and the Kingdom" were also published by Steve Nichols as a separate volume in 2006. Much of it was delivered as lectures, notably to Countess Tamara Bourkhoun's Golden Dawn-inspired Order of the Pyramid and Sphinx in the 1960's, of which she was a prominent member, or articles in such publications as Prediction. She was an initiate of several different orders representing Hermetic and Pagan traditions including the OrdoTempli Orientis, the Masonic Order, the Fellowship of Isis and the French Gnostic Church.

Colquhoun discovered surrealism through the work of Dali and Magritte whilst studying at the Slade under Henry Tonks, and joined the English Surrealist Group in 1939, exhibiting with Roland Penrose at the Mayor Gallery the same year. Her involvement with the British Surrealist movement, however, was to be brief as she was soon expelled from the group for refusing to abandon the occult research which had become central to her work. She was interested in the occult from an early age, particularly the principles of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, introduced through her cousin Edward Garstin, and she infused her art with elements of occult colour theory and sacred geometry, both of which she returned to in her later writings as evidenced here (see Amy Hale, The Magic Surrealism of Ithell Colquhoun, Art UK online, June 2020).

The present collection represents many of her wide-ranging interests, drawing together her magical and artistic careers. In her short article of 1977, 'The Taro as Colour', a modern typed copy of which is included in the archive, she talks of her magical theory of colour and the surrealistic painting technique of automatism: '...It renders the essence of each card by the non-figurative means of pure colour, applied automatically in the manner of the psychomorphological movement in surrealism...' she explains. Also evident is her admiration for Celtic lore (one letter is from a Deaconess of the Ancient Celtic Church) and in particular W.B. Yeats, a Golden Dawn Adept who also used automatism in his work ("...Through his hermetic studies under MacGregor Mathews, Yeats was deeply embued with Qabalistic thought..."). Ithell's influential article about Aleister Crowley which appeared originally in the London Broadsheet, no.4, April 1955, is also present, typed and amended by the author: '...Ithells' attitude to Aleister Crowley was ambivalent. He chased her around a house once, but she managed to escape his advances...' (Nichols, p.3). Amongst the wealth of material here is a detailed description of a ritual, "The Outline of Preliminary Ceremony Connected with the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram", running to some five handwritten pages with red and black inks used to clarify which are spoken words and which are actions. As might be expected, there are also several striking illustrations, including a series of colourful painted diagrams depicting various configurations of The Cube.

Provenance: Steve Nichols, editor of The Magical Writings of Ithell Colquhoun, 2007.

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