Drunk Occult History Because What the Hell

Hello the universe makes zero sense right now and I have wine, so let’s consider Aleister goddamn Crowley SOME MORE.

Seriously, I thought I’d finish up this guy in three posts and then move on to other things, but wow, no. And I’m not even going into detail about most of it.

To sum up so far: Rich repressed Edwardian dude decides to go performatively bad, blows his entire inheritance on hookers, blow, and self-publication, has Mystical Buttsex Experience, joins occult society, creates Drama in same, gets married in a “let’s save you from an arranged marriage” deal that would be romantic if it wasn’t, y’know, Aleister fucking Crowley, spends his honeymoon getting messages from possible Egyptian gods, writes a book dictated by same, refuses to commit museum theft and doesn’t publish the book.

Crowley was twenty nine at this point.

Whatever you can say about the guy, he did many things. I, in contrast, am eight years older and have yet to have any sort of Mystical Buttsex Experience, let alone transcribe an entire book from a dubiously-motivated disembodied voice. Clearly I’m spending too much of my time playing  video games and eating avocado toast.

So Mathers, the guy who ran the aforementioned occult society? Post-marriage, Crowley decided that Mathers was attacking him magically for Reasons and their bromance ended. One might speculate about the timing of this, Mathers’ Victorian attitudes toward sex and celibate marriage, and the displacement activity of repressed homosexual attraction. There’s a half-decent historical drama here, in fact. I see Tom Ellis as Crowley, and as Mathers…hm. Going with Alexis Denisof.

Crowley carried on doing things like getting more mountaineers killed by climbing the most dangerous mountain in the world in a dumbass fashion, naming his daughter Lillith OF FUCKING COURSE, and paying a guy a hundred pounds to write an essay about how good his poetry was. His daughter died, which was sad but did not keep him from naming another daughter “Lola Zaza,” nor from smoking a fuckton of hashish and doing magic, which I approve of more than I do “Lola Zaza,” good fucking Lord.

Dude claimed to have become one with God, as That Guy inevitably does, and wrote a bunch more books of occult philosophy. The whole system became known as Thelema, which some reasonable people practice, and Crowley was in no way one of them. He claimed, as That Guy inevitably does, that it was “objective truth.”

Izzy’s Drunken Life Tips #43: Never hang out with guys who talk about “objective truth.”

I was wrong earlier about Crowley having blown through his inheritance already, because at this point his money started running out, so he started acting as a magical bodyguard for coke-addled noblemen, writing short fiction, and taking paying students, which only seems to have involved BDSM like half the time.

Next: Starting His Own Magical Order! With Blackjack! And Hookers!


Drunk Occult History RETURNS!

There’s a plague! I’m in rural PA with my parents–who have let me drive their car, which is a sign of the goddamn End Times–for the foreseeable future! I may have panic-bought carrot seeds! It’s time to think about Aleister Crowley some more!

Dude followed the Golden Dawn thing with a world tour, in which he hit Mexico and Hawaii and San Francisco, went over to India and caught malaria to finish up his disease collection plus claimed to have achieved a state of enlightenment because of course he did, fucked around with Enochian and a number of poems about women he wanted to bang, and then ended up in Paris, where he married a friend’s sister, Rose, seriously pissing off said friend.

I’m not sure who to side with here. On the one hand, I’m not crazy about fraternal overprotectiveness. On the other, Aleister Crowley is not the sort of person anyone should marry. On the third, maybe don’t be friends with people you wouldn’t be okay with your siblings dating? On the fourth, maybe dude wanted Crowley himself, which would also be not the best judgment ever.

(To be fair, Crowley as a young man was much hotter than the standard picture in which he looks like Lex Luthor, or a very surly egg. Wiki has a photo of him in ceremonial clothes in 1912, and…I would, yeah. Especially with a good supply of penicillin.)

Crowley and Rose started their honeymoon by telling a Cairo hotel they were royalty, which is about #4 on the Most Aleister Crowley Ways to Spend Your Fucking Honeymoon. #1, of course, is Claiming To Be Contacted By Ancient Egyptian Gods, which, yes, apparently Horus just hangs around waiting for some rando drug-addled Englishman to show up so he can reveal Mystic Truths. The Egyptian underworld does not have a lot of Scrabble games, one assumes.

Presumably inspired by Horus–British occultism had a real Thing about Egyptian gods back then, and it makes it very difficult to deal with canon Golden Dawn stuff for those of us who have unfortunate Internet-inspired associations with animal-headed people–or at least a disembodied voice, Crowley spent three days writing The Book of the Law.

A lot of the book in question is…the sort of book dudes conveniently hear mystical voices telling them to write. A new age (excuse me, Aeon) is coming! Someone needs to lead it! Guess who has the lofty yet burdensome duty? Look, the disembodied voice says so, do you want to hurt its feeling? It’s a VERY SENSITIVE disembodied voice, okay? Don’t fuck with the voice.

There was apparently A Whole Thing where the voice also told Crowley to steal a stele (sorry) from a museum and fortify an island and Crowley was like “look you might be a disembodied voice and I might be a syphilitic Edwardian jackass but I have standards dammit please do fuck off,” so he sent copies around, then locked the book away and ignored it.

We are going to stop here and have a moment of silence for Crowley actually having a lick of sense. I think the next one is in 1946 and involves L. Ron Hubbard watching people jerk off.

Coming in December: THE STORMBRINGER

I’m not dead! I haven’t given up blogging! I have, however, been swamped writing and editing A NEW SERIES, which I can now reveal! (Thanks to the hour and a train and a cup of London Fog and a chocolate croissant, there will be plenty of CAPITAL LETTERS.)

HEY FRIENDS: Do you like “The Witcher?” Do you want to read about people trained from childhood, and altered by magic, to hunt monsters in a fantasy world?

Only what if a bunch of those people were women? And what if they also got bonded to the spirits of long-dead people who hang out in gems in their swords? And this all happened because of FANTASY SNOWPOCALYPSE a while back which was totally not inspired by me having to live in New England in 2015, Boston is ONLY SLIGHTLY A GODLESS WASTELAND, really?

And what if one of them discovered that the asshole who caused the snowpocalypse is BACK?


THE STORMBRINGER! Coming next December, just when your rum-to-eggnog ratio is starting to run low and you’re seriously contemplating setting fire to something important if Uncle Don doesn’t stop talking about bitcoin. Contains:

Training the Peaceful Villagers!
Monsters slash villains based loosely on nucklavee, dullahan, and Gamergate!
The SOMEWHAT AWKWARD situation where the frozen-in-time dude you’ve just awakened is the ex of the guy in your sword, who thought Dude 1 was long dead but he wasn’t and now you’re all trying to prevent the apocalypse and previously-frozen-in-time dude is ACTUALLY PRETTY GODDAMN HOT.
Rainbow magic powers!
A bit that made my editor comment “Great world-building, and also: gross.”
A goddess of love who also specializes in healing, death, and vengeance because fuck Yoda is why.
A shiny blue god of justice!


THE STORMBRINGER: The first book of a new fantasy-romance trilogy. Look for it on the Sourcebook page, Amazon, B&N, and other places where you get books!

Part 4: What?

Happy Christmas Eve! I have made several decisions, one of which involved buying peach-flavored fizzy wine. I’ve also watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas, as has been family tradition since the 80s, and gotten sniffly at “Welcome Christmas,” and marveled at Dr. Seuss surreal architecture.

Speaking of surreal:


Well, this is…an egg.

A headless babydoll egg.

Because babydolls are insufficiently creepy by themselves (hint: they are not).

With an envelope, and Christmas greetings. And puffed sleeves.

I could sort of understand if this were for New Year’s, because egg and hatching and new life and all that. I’m not saying it wouldn’t still be UNNERVING AS HELL, but I could understand it. But no. There is no understanding to be had here.


As with the Goat Card, these kids have the only appropriate expressions for this situation.

he was made of snow

but the children know

that he came to life one day

May your holidays be free of creepy sun gods and their snowcromantic creations.


These kids, however…I mean, clearly stoned. As you’d have to be.

You know how every survival horror game has one inexplicably plant-themed boss?


Do the unopened buds also contain moppet heads?

One may well wonder.


“Food that wants to be eaten,” is a known if disturbing trope in ads and occasionally fiction, but this…this is the final boss of the aforementioned  Victorian-Christmas-themed survival horror game. This balances Little Mermaid-style upon legs and feet totally unsuitable for the position, with EATING IMPLEMENTS STUCK IN ITS FACE, and it’s SMILING ABOUT IT.

Well, it’s smiling about *something*.

You don’t want to know what.

While the letters for “Christmas” are doing their best to ignore this whole…situation…the ones for “A Merry” have just given in to the eldritch horror.

(The carefully-balanced glass of milk/eggnog/PROBABLY ECTOPLASM SERIOUSLY atop its head would, naturally, be the only vulnerable point it has during the final battle.)

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it! Happy Tuesday, to those who don’t! And let us all be thankful that we’re not ruled by Fygge’Puddin, who dances mindlessly to the eternal piping of Bing Crosby.




On The Non-Consecutive Third Day of This Blog

…other members of the animal kingdom! Among other things.


The problem here is not the pig-drawn sleigh. That’s cool. There’s a whole subgenre of gnome-and-pig cards, which friends tell me are because Nordic tomten (winter gnomes, basically) are often associated with livestock, and I guess “pig” makes more sense than “cow” or “chicken,” despite the fact that my impression from various media is that pigs are kind of mean bastards and more than happy to eat us when and if they get the chance. (Boar spears. Seriously.)

Even if these are humans, as the lack of beards suggests, your average pig is pretty damn strong, is my impression.

No, the problem is the mouths. *Everyone* in this picture has Joker faces, including the pig, and while I can credit the aquavit with the smiles themselves, not to mention the rosy cheeks, mouths are not supposed to go that far out.

That guy in the back, in particular, has Plans. They are not good plans.


The kid here wears the only sort of expression that makes any sense under the circumstances.

This card comes *very close* to being normal. “I have come to greet you,” is an appropriate if slightly antiquated message, and indeed someone is being greeted in this photo.

As greetings go, it’s more “Hello, Agent Cooper, how’s Annie?” than “God bless us, every one!” though.

Christmas card with three moths




Christmas never changes.

The Fall of the British Empire In Christmas Cards Part II: BIRDS MAN

Okay so:


I am aware that killing wrens is an old English tradition at Christmas, possibly for Sound Mythological Reasons but also because if you have your whole family in one place during the winter, SOMETHING is gonna die, and it’s probably better to lose a small bird than Cousin, IDK, Probably Wulfgar. (PROBABLY. I don’t want to dictate, especially if Cousin Wulfgar’s gotten really into blockchain.) But this looks like a robin, so why are we joyful about its corpse?

The article says that images like this were meant to remind Victorians that poor children were dying in the snow. I say that, first of all, maybe fix your society so that doesn’t happen rather than farming it out to the greeting card industry, and second, there is damned little Victorian media that doesn’t involve poor children dying in snow, except for the stuff that involves frivolous young women dying of consumption. Seriously, between Hans Christian Andersen and Louisa May Alcott, you can’t throw a brick in Victorian lit without hitting some winsomely perishing urchin or other.

Meanwhile, whenever a modern scold talks about the degeneracy of our times and the horrible things young people like, I’m like dude, people generations back had corpse photos and jewelry made out of dead people’s hair and COFFIN PLATE COLLECTIONS, so.


Um. Well. Yes.

You say “jollity,” I say “torch-bearing bird mob.” Potato…potahto?

Where are they coming from? Nobody knows. Where are they going? I’m hoping not to my place. What do they want? Probably VENGEANCE. And suet.

Lead bird seems to think this is all in a good cause and bound to work out for the best; the two behind are doubtful, but go along anyway, maybe in fear of the two behind *them*. The one on the left, in particular, has the look of a songbird who will tolerate no dissent.


Animal concerts? Sure. Drummer Bunny looks more like he’s playing an execution and *really* enjoying his job, but maybe that’s a drummer thing. (There’s a Little Drummer Boy/Spinal Tap crossover that nobody wants lurking around.) Okay.


It’s like Dr. Seuss had a bad trip. Or like a bird melted, and then got pins stuck in it. I don’t know. I know that it’s on a box, and it clearly welcomes death. And that’s really all I need to know.


Appropriate to the evening: a different article categorizes the below under “dead birds,” and…honey, no. Your innocence does you credit, but observe both the posture and the surroundings, most notably the punchbowl.

These birds are not dead. (Yet: if the expression of Cross-Eyed Bearcat there is less scandalized and more hungry, that situation might change.) No, no. I have been these birds–there was a week in college where I believe I was all these birds–and life, of a sort, went on the next morning.

I kind of wished otherwise, especially after the evening when my then-friend Jerry invented the “beef shot,” but death was not forthcoming.


You know what? *Yes*, Victorians. These are owls on tricycle velocipedes delivering mail, and they are good and right. You’ve got living birds, doing a greeting-related thing, and that’s already clearing the (admittedly pretty low) bar set by previous cards, plus the one-escort-owl-to-post-carrying-owl buddy system is heartwarming and deserves its own film about how they learn to overcome their differences.

I’m not going to ask why, or whether these are small velocipedes or EXTREMELY LARGE owls, or whether Owl Post is authorized by the Crown in any way. In these troubled times, we all need postowls on velocipedes.

And white zinfandel.


Taking a break from my usual blog stuff because last year a friend linked me to this article about Victorian Christmas cards. The original author tries to be all understanding and nonjudgmental about the Victorians, and how Christmas was a new thing and they were trying to remind people about orphans dying in snow, but I’m solidly in the camp of “motherfuckers thought laudanum was the sixth food group and it shows.”

So, perhaps to make up for my lack of regular posting lately, perhaps just because what the ever-living fuck, the 1800s, the next few days will feature a selection of those cards and my reactions to them.

Part 1: Frogs? Frogs.

I don’t know why frogs, they’re not really a Christmas-y animal what with the amphibian-ness and the hibernation, but…frogs. Many of them dead.

I am not, technically, sure if these inexplicably ice-skating frogs–who are wearing ice-skates but otherwise naked, by the way–are actually dead or if they’ve just fallen over while skating in “a beautiful row.” Is that blood beneath them, or just their reflections on the ice? Why would a frog, or indeed anyone else, smoke a pipe while ice-skating? Does the author/artist of this card probably have an entire room full of preserved frogs with accessories?

Answers are: “Looks like blood to me, I have no idea, and ALMOST FUCKING CERTAINLY.”

librarybirmingham02.jpeg I would like to believe that these are the same frogs, at a happier time in the future, but the presence of leg-splotches on all but the last leads me to believe that they’re a totally different frog quartet.  None of them look particularly thrilled about the situation, despite their well-coordinated boots and parasols, but on the other hand, “cheerful” is a hard face for a frog. God knows they could have it worse:



A Merry Christmas to You! Be merry, like the frog who’s shivved his buddy and stolen his goods! Not like the dead frog! Who is naked, which is the normal condition for frogs, except that the other frog is wearing not only pants but a vest. No shoes, because *that* would just be ridiculous. Frog Clothing Standards apparently mean you can either wear shoes or anything else, but decency forbids both at once.

Was this a lover’s quarrel? Did they team up to rob a bank, and then Frog A didn’t want to share the…cash? (Note that the bag doesn’t say 2000 *what*.) Did Frog B threaten to sell Frog A out to the frogthorities, and thus A stabbed B with a frog-sized poniard after one last night of passion?

(A British friend points out that the bag is likely referencing the English “2,000 Guineas” horse race, so this is a scene of Frog Horse-Betting Intrigue.)

Whatever’s going on here, the “Y” in “Merry” has an umlaut, and that’s important to remember this holiday season.


Well, nobody’s dead here. Yet.

I am not Amphibian Knowledge Girl, but don’t frogs traditionally eat these sorts of insects? It’s nice to see that the Christmas Spirit has transformed the traditional predator-prey relationship, and presumably there’s mincemeat for everyone…unless this is some kind of Arrangement the insect and frog worlds have worked out, and what we’re seeing here is actually the Ceremonial Death Waltz.

You will note that everyone is the same size, which leads to the conclusion that either a) this is one of those tiny poisonous frogs you get in South America, which to be fair are very cute, or b) there’s been a horrible nuclear accident and now there are bullfrog-sized cockroaches that KNOW HOW TO BALLROOM DANCE.

I mean, I accept a certain amount of Beatrix-Potter-esque animals-living-by-Victorian-human-mores, especially in Christmas cards, but Cockroaches In High Society is a new one.