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Invoking the Dark - The Romance of the Night Side

By Barry Walker

Originally published at Samhain 2002

The Fall from the True Path: is magick becoming too popular for its own good?

Magick is everywhere these days. Turn on your TV. Go to the movies. Or even stroll into your local Dillions bookshop and you are bombarded by images and ideas that when I was in my late teens, which was not that long ago, were secrets known only to a few Initiates of Arcane Orders and Hidden Covens. The situation has now changed, each week publishing houses, mostly based in the USA, churn out book after book on how to cast spells or the healing power of gem stones. Gone are the days when owning a dog-eared copy of, "The Black Arts" was the height of occult attainment. If you have the money you can spend every weekend at some New Age workshop or other, learning how to balance your Chakras or to get re-birthed. Is this situation a good one, with the mass dissemination of magickal thought and images has the magick been in some way diluted to give it mass appeal by brushing under the carpet it's darker aspects? Are the darker aspects of magick "where it's at"?

It has been said that there are two kinds of magick - that which works and that which does not. True enough, but today it could be said that the two kinds of magick are the "New Age teen witch" flavour and the more hidden dark paths of the Night Side. But what are the Dark Paths, who walks them, what do they do and why do New Agers hate them so much? More of which later.

TV programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, films such as The Craft and Practical Magick, even Harry Potter, present an image of magick that many would argue is a false one. In these programmes there is no darkness, no sense of brooding menace from the Powers invoked, it's safe, clean, bloodless. The amoral force of magick is bent into a White Light power full of moral judgements that is nothing but a sop to the US Christian Right. This has lead to the mass production of "spell books" aimed at the teenage girl market, pretty little books full of pretty little spells with not a whiff of the power of sex and death that is at the root of witchcraft. The idea that a book aimed at ten to thirteen year old girls can be the source of any real magick is a foolish one.

With the media full of images of magick and high street bookshops stocking more and more works on New Age subjects you could be fooled into thinking that the New Age and the teen witch markets represent the whole world of magickal practice today: you would be wrong. There are people who still practice a much darker form of the Art. Drawn from all walks of life, from the gothy student to the City stockbroker. In the rest of this article I aim to explore the motivation of these people and to look at just what is going on out there where Left Hand Path Magickians are Invoking the Dark. I will also touch on the tensions between the Night Side and the New Age. I also want to make a brief exploration of the more widely practised paths of night side magicks.

No one likes a Chaos Magickian: Why is there a rift between New Age magick and the Night Side?

A few years ago there was a TV programme called "Desperately Seeking"?. It was an overview of what has come to be known as New Age subjects. It also made one very telling point about how the New Age and "white" forms of magick react to those who follow a darker way. The presenter told a story about how he was talking to a woman who was a self proclaimed witch and she was asking him what other groups were interviewed and filmed for the programme. When he mentioned one show had a group of London Chaos Magickians doing their stuff, she reacted by saying she would never appear on the same programme as Chaos Magickians!! From her reaction it's clear that the New Age has some real issues when dealing with the Night Side.

The reaction of some people who call themselves witches, healers etc. when faced with a worker of Night Side magick can be a strange one. They act with a mixture of revulsion and horror, often talking about the atmosphere being tainted by the person's "Black Aura". This "looking down" on so many paths of magick by the New Age is hard to understand because they have far more in common than points where they differ. A fact overlooked by your average "white witch". The aims of many of their workings are the same; it's only the method that differs.

Is the New Age a pure form of Satanism?

Take a look at the New Age shelf in your local bookshop. What are the subjects that the books cover? Healing of self and others; self-attainment (gain) and self-help, wealth creation and maintenance. It may come as a shock to a New Age reader of these books that the day to day working of a Chaos Magickian or any other worker from the darker side of the occult also includes the healing of medical issues for the Magickian and his / her contacts. They also seek to improve their situation via self attainment, and whole books have been written about Chaos Magick and its application in wealth magick There is a large crossover in the aims of magick undertaken by a coven of "nice" witches and a temple of "nasty" Chaos Magickians. It is only when the methods of working are examined do any differences appear. The sigil charged by masturbation and anointed with sperm or love juice would shock a New Ager, proving to them that it is true, all Chaos Magickians are wankers. The way of working differs but the result is often the same.

This is because at the roots of New Age ways of working there is a blurring of the ways, a great deal that is today seen as firmly in the New Age camp was once grounds for damnation. The creation and attainment of wealth, a subject of many "self help" books, was not so long ago thought of as pure "Black Magick". It is common for weekend workshops to charge hundreds of pounds for teaching a full set Reiki attunements can cost well over five hundred pounds, and this is still OK by your average New Ager. Another area with a darker past is that of Tantra. Today there are "lovers' Tantra" workshops everywhere. But I wonder if the people attending know about the Left Hand Tantra of India with its emphasis on deconditioning of the self? In a weekend Tantra workshop would the participants be expected to sleep in a graveyard or take part in bizarre sexual practices? No, Tantra like wealth magick, self improvement and personal growth (gain) are now nice and safe New Agey subjects. So is the New Age a pure form of Satanism? Well, maybe that is taking it too far, but it has more in common with other forms of magick than it would like to admit.

The Usual Suspects

There are many paths that walk the ways of the Night Side of magick. Unless you are an "insider" of one these systems you are not likely to know much about what they are and how they work their magicks. In this section I'll take a brief overview of Night Side practices that are around in the UK today.

Chaos Magick

This along with Satanism has got a bad name amongst the New Age set. Is this black reputation deserved? What is the attraction of Chaos magick to those who follow that way?

When modern magick was reborn in the late 19th century with the formation of the Golden Dawn, through to the expansion of these ideas by Aleister Crowley whose grounding of the Book of Law from the entity Aiwas in Cairo lead to the formation of Thelema, the 93 current. The evolution of magick was slow, still giving emphasis to grades and formal structure forms of ritual. Magick changed little, it started to look bloated, stuck in ways of working because "it's always been done that way". It remained like this until the UK was hit by the punk revolution of the late seventies. At this time came a new crop of would-be sorcerers. To these firebrands, living in the grim drabness of inner city estates with their taste for the ragged rebellion of the Sex pistols, the stuffy middle class, gentlemen's club of the magickal schools that were available to them was an alien world. These proto chaos magickians wondered what parts of ritual were needed to make the magick work and what was mere packing and dead tradition. So, inspired by the works of Robert Anton Wilson who's Cosmic Trigger pointed to a world of magick without bullshit they set out to find just how far the human mind could reach when free from the trapping of pseudo Masonic ritual. Also of major influence to the chaos current was the magickal ideas of the artist Austin Osman Spare. Spare's magick was a self-invented freestyle obsessive form of sorcery where images are charged with intent and when the sorcerer enters a "no mind" state of trance the spell is cast in the moment of pure void. At this point came Peter Carroll whose seminal work gave chaos magick much of its ideas and methods; he also formed the IOT, still the only Magickal Order of Chaos of any real note. Carroll gave the world a system of magick that was without any formal ways of working; to the Chaos Magickian belief was a tool for results. The Magickian was free to take ideas from anything he liked and if the results came he could use them for as long as they were useful, free to discard them before they became dogma. Others have added to chaos magick; writers such as Phil Hine and Dave Lee have given flesh to the bare bones ideas of the first wave. Chaos Magick ideas now can be found shaping the comics and other writings of "post modern" writer Grant Morrison. Free from any morals, free from rules, free from set ways of working, the chaos warrior is seen as one of the Blackest of Black Magickians. The attraction of chaos magick to a Chaos Magickian is that it treats you as a grown up who can form your own rules and personal moral codes.

The Cool Of Cthulhu: The Tentacles of Naughtiness

There are few areas of Magick that, despite the dire warnings of the evangelical movement, pose any real threat to the user. This is not true of working with areas of the mythos of HP Lovecraft. Work within this paradigm has been known to lead to mental problems and health breakdowns, not to mention unwanted strangeness such as poltergeist activity that is difficult to control. It is the nature of the Universe that it likes to confirm your ideas about it. In this sense the universe is a plastic medium, a fact made use of by Chaos Magickians and others for sorcery. But there is a downside to the malleable nature of "reality" that can be seen with the use of the mythos as a personal working paradigm. There is a certain kind of brooding menace about it, glimpsed in the stories, but brought into stark focus when given half a chance. This feeling of menace grows as the universe strives to confirm your new beliefs about it, television programmes about strange cyclopean ancient cities will strike a chord of recognition, new archaeology will question our understanding of civilizations such as Egypt, minor events and objects will take on Cosmic significance, more and more evidence will arise hinting at the reality of the Great Old Ones and that soon the stars will be right again.

The question has been asked why would anyone seek to work with the "entities" of the Mythos, given their nature as "evil" beings who plot the destruction of mankind and in this role share common ground with Satan. Why would one choose to evoke a god who may well eat your face off if "he" appeared? Many who choose this path seem to do so because of the transforming nature of contact with the Mythos. In his books Kenneth Grant again and again hints at the Stella influence of the Great Old Ones transforming mankind into a higher evolutionary state, here the ideas of the Mythos and those of Maat Magick mix and blur as the sphere of the Mauve Zone influences the sphere of Malkuth and the world of matter, transforming mankind in the process. Malkuth in relation to the Necronomicon is the place of descent, the domain of Shoggoths, the crystal that channels its influence being tigers eye. According to Grant our world is being shaped, prepared almost, by the seeping through of ideas from the Mauve Zone. The invocations of Magickians who on the earth work to open the gates of Yog-Sothoth to complete this transformation and in doing so usher in a new aeon of the beast-man. There are groups local to the midlands, some even post their ideas on the internet, who work with the ideas and entities of the Lovecraft Mythos. Are these people "evil"? They would not see themselves as such. They claim to be helping Man evolve into a more god-like state. To them, Cthulhu is good for you!

Goetic Evocation: Pacts with the Devil?

"Thee I Invoke, the Bornless one.
Thee that didst create the Earth and the Heaven:
Thee that didst create the Darkness and the Light."

So go the first few lines of the Bornless One ritual: The Preliminary Invocation of the Goetia.

There is no area of Magick that is as dark as the Goetia. This is what springs to mind when the, "man in the street" thinks about the occult. Just how sinister Goetia and the evocation of spirits is is not fully understood, even by many Magickians.

The book called the Goetia is the first part of a larger work entitled, The Clavicule of Solomon, also know as, "The Lesser Key of Solomon the King". It pertains to the trafficking with spirits who claim to be of the order of Angels, but most see them as belonging firmly to the Infernal realms. In these enlightened days few people regard the evocation to visible appearance as being other than myth or fantasy. While it is understandable to have this idea, it would be wrong to view this practice as myth because there are still Magickians who are using this system, even at the heart of our biggest Cities.

Is it real?

A good question. Just what is real after all? A Magickian was once challenged to evoke a spirit to "prove" he could do it. The sorcerer declined the request, not because he was unable to do it but because the situation and conditions that are required to evoke to visible appearance are such that the questioning sceptic could dismiss the appearance of the entity as nothing more than a hallucination. Therefore to go to all the effort and risk of an evocation just to prove you can do it is not worth it. Magickians who work with this system claim that the main risk is not one of being possessed by some demonic creature from some lower circle of hell. Rather it's the fact that evocation produces such amazing results, real-world objective stuff, a sorcerer can be obsessed by it, wanting to do more and more. The spirits of the Goetia want to be evoked, to this end they will tell you whatever you want to hear, they will also do your bidding. Here lies the true risk of Goetia and why I would advise people keep away from it unless you are confident you know yourself.

Don't you need loads of "stuff"?

Reading any of the grimoires that remain in print today it would appear that a modern magickian would be unable to work the system without, at the very least, winning the Lotto. Not to mention all the killing and bloodletting would be frowned on by the other people living in your tower block! This holds true not only for the Lesser Key but for all grimoires. Other "Black Books" include The Grimorium Verum, The Grand Grimoire, The Constitution of Honorius and The Black Pullet and there are others that are less well known and harder to obtain. All these books seem to require the magickian make his own weapons, forging them, not just buying, they ask that sacrifices are made and that the magickian live a life akin to that of a monk. None of this seems within reach of a person who has any form of normal life. An example of the number of items books claim you need for an evocation can be given by listing those needed to work the Grimorium Verum.

  • A new knife, the implication is you make it yourself
  • The Sacrificial Knife, same as the Knife of Art
  • An asperser
  • Perfumes
  • Virgin parchment
  • A lancet
  • Pen of Art
  • Ink horn of Art!

The list is large enough, taken from the version I own; some I have seen list even more items and are far stricter on how the operator must create them, going as far to make your own ink, and no, you can't buy the ingredients from The Sorcerers Apprentice.

So, is evocation out of reach from the modern Night Side Magickian? Not if you are willing to risk taking a few short cuts. In his book S. Jason Black sets out a modern system of evocation magick, based on the old grimoires, but with most of the illegal or impossible to obtain items removed. Magickians who have used this cut down system report obtaining "interesting" results. The attraction of evocation is clear. When confronted by a visible spirit in your Triangle of Art any questions of whether magick is real or not fly out of the window. A magickian who is able to evoke gains the power to cause real world major results. The risks and dangers are many, but the rewards for susses are massive.

The Dark Worship

There is a lot of myth and rumour regarding those who practice Dark Side Magick. In recent years a veritable industry has sprung up where self-styled "occult detectives" and "psychic questers" who claim to have uncovered a sinister world plot being hatched by various Black Occult Orders. This plot goes under many names, but all authors on the subject hint at some as yet undefined but sinister outcome if these groups are left unopposed.

It seems that there are two main areas where there are hints of dark goings on. There is a growing number of people who follow the idea that one or more occult groups are trying to hijack the "energy system" of the UK for their own sinister end: more of this in a while. The other is based on the idea that a number of Satanic groups are infiltrating high office here and in the US: that these groups are trying to create a kind of Satanic Fourth Reich.

It has been claimed that the US-based Satanic group the Temple of Set has been investigated by both the FBI and the CIA because of the neo-Nazi ideas of its founder, Michael Aquino. A hate figure for the US anti-occult evangelical Christian movements, Aquino is often cited as "proof" of the plot by Satanists to take over the world, or at least the USA. It's impossible to say if there is any truth in this or not. It seems that many of the rumours about the Temple of Set and the world take-over Nazi plot stem from a visit Aquino made to Himmler's Wewelsburg Castle in October 1983. While there he performed a ritual, described by Aquino as "part of his search for the key principles for the true powers of Darkness". That much is true, the rest is unknown.

The Wolverhampton Horror

Another persistent rumour about "Black Magickians" is that there is a conspiracy to subvert the energy matrix of the land. This matrix appears to be what used to be called "Ley Lines", said to link ancient sites, such as stone circles, long and round barrows, old churches etc. The recent burning of the ritual yew tree at Wychbury Hill has also being blamed on Black Magickians who are said to work in the Birmingham area. It's hard to pin down many facts regarding this. All of the Night Side Magickians I have spoke to on the subject claim it's utter rubbish, made up to sell a few books and give meaning to people whose lives are rather sad. That's what Magickians say, but where does this idea come from?

The first time the idea of an organised group using the energy of the land while armed with weird and powerful ancient artefacts seems to have been the publication of two books by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman. The story tells a rip-roaring occult yarn with all sorts of myths and legends being brought into play. As the authors race to find certain power objects before the "baddies" get to them, the trail leads to links with the gun powder plotters, dark goings on at the Rollright Stones and hints of UFO contacts. In the end the heroes save the day and have in their possession objects said to be of great power.

Little more is heard about the conspiracy until 1988 when a young writer who featured in the Wolverhampton goings on publishes a book that tells an amazing tale. This time the location has moved from the Midlands to the South East. The Black Alchemist tells of a battle of wits between Mr Collins and a number of psychics as they seek to prevent The Friends of Hekate doing some hardcore evil. All manner of curse objects are discovered amid much driving around in the middle of the night. The only thing about these books that is certain is the authors claim to have found a number of items and they published photos of these. Also, a large number of people would have to be "in" on any lie if it was all being made up, and you would have expected someone would have blown it before now. The Black Alchemist spawned the birth of the whole psychic questing thing. This has grown to the point where it holds a conference in London each year that boasts a good attendance.

The Romance of The Darkness

Magickians who follow the way of the Night Side see themselves as dipping into wells of great power. They consider what they do to be a pure form of magick, more in tune with what magick was like before the dilution of the New Age got to work on it. While their magick is to a certain extent about bettering their own situation in life, they would point out that much of the New Age is the same, only they are more honest about it. Night Side Magickians claim that being unbound from any set moral standards they are free to choose their own path through life, thus allowing them to fully take responsibility for their actions. Chaos Magickians go further: they say their magick is more fun, because they are free to take anything they like and seek the magick it may contain. This is how you get such odd creatures as Pagan Chaos Magickians who are just as happy attending an open seasonal rite as they are summoning some spawn of Old Night from the Lovecraft mythos.


While I have only touched the surface of the ideas and practices of Night Side Magicks, I hope this article has given you some idea of what is going on where magick is worked that is not of the New Age variety.