As they begin their magick rite, the sky clouds over and darkens. A cold wind sweeps the top of Glastonbury Tor, the legendary British power spot where ley lines converge and primal dragon energy is concentrated. Four altars are set up with wooden poles forming triangular spaces, littered with talismans. Inside the circle between the altars step 12 people, a ragtag collection of pagans, gypsies and travellers that represent the source races of humanity. As a brilliant zig-zag flash of lightning breaks the clouds, Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule steps into the circle followed closely by two others, their six arms waving like a spider, spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of life. The initiates are pierced through their chest and sewn together with a string web, then anointed as they sing a range of tones to activate their chakras, the energy centres running up their spines. This was the ‘13th Tribe’ weaving, a boggling ritual to unite the warring races of humanity and connect to the earth, and you haven’t seen anything yet…
What the fuck, you’re probably thinking? Here’s the deal: the world is stranger than you believe. And one of the strangest of the strange is Australia’s own Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. He’s a ‘chaorder magickian’ who dabbles in invoking Godforms, mutating his own body, travelling the astral realm, and manifesting his will in any number of exotic rituals across the world, from Uluru to the pyramids in Egypt. But tonight we’re sitting round an open fire in a concrete backyard in a dilapidated share house in Brunswick, in the suburbs of Melbourne. There are ley lines here too, but the power lines overhead are more evident. A life-sized, hand-carved clay statue of the Goddess Kali is here with us, terrifying Kali with her eight limbs and long rolling tongue, adorned with skulls round her neck and a belt of human hands.
But wait, let’s step back a second and take all this in. If you can suspend your cultural disbelief, this is all about magick – and it’s heavy stuff, indeed. None of that garden variety smoke and mirrors that celebrity magicians like Harry Houdini practised, this is the real deal, the ancient deal for a new age. This is the knowledge that witches and warlocks, medieval magickians, alchemists, and generations of occultists have kept alive, and one of its leading modern practicioners is sitting opposite me now. A lean man in his 30s, Orryelle’s got a long face with a broad nose, his hairline shaved back into a sharp triangle at the crown. It makes his head seem elongated, like it’s been stretched. There’s a collection of esoteric jewellery and charms around his neck and dangling from his ears, which have an elfin tweak to them. His blue eyes are piercing, mischievous, matching the cheeky smile he radiates.
“Magick is … a direction and focusing of will and intent,” Orryelle says, handing me a cup of coffee he’s just made. I can’t help but notice the serpent head tattooed along his thumb and forefinger, jaws open wide and about to strike. “To do a ritual or a spell is to manifest your desired intent or result… [But] magick isn’t necessarily all about spell casting and looking for deliberate results. Magick is something that's alive in our existence.” He sits down cross-legged by the fire and gazes deeply into the flames, flickering shadows dancing across his face.
Since the last peak of magickal interest back in the Victorian era, when the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had wealthy and famous initiates like the poet W.B. Yeats, the idea of magick has been on the decline. Reduced in the public mind to Harry Potter special effects and Hollywood glam, or stage magic, illusion and sleight-of-hand tricks, magic has become a pale shadow of its true origin. That’s why Orryelle and many other ‘Chaos Magickians’ have upheld the tradition of spelling ‘magick’ with a ‘k’, which was originated by the infamous Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century to set it apart from the sanitised version. As they see it, everything is magick, and life itself is a spell we’re all under. When you have the eyes to see and the will to connect, it’s like reaching out and plucking ripe fruit off a tree.
“You have to look at things differently and see the magick in things, hear it, be aware of the flow of synchronicity. You need to be aware of the patterns of fate, of the Gods and spirits that are around us all the time, and be tuned into them,” says Orryelle , the Trickster-magickian in the moonlight. The fire swirls around and casts light on the Kali statue to my right, as if on cue. Kali’s one of the allies that Orryelle works with in his magickal rituals, along with the Egyptian lioness-headed Sekhmet, the ‘demon’ Choronzon and others, an astral posse handpicked from the religions and mythologies of the world. Orryelle made the Kali statue himself and has used it in his ritual performances that he and his band of magickians in Metamorphic Ritual Theatre Co. have conducted to take theatre beyond its usual bounds of ‘acting’ into the realm of Becoming. You see, in their modern blend of ancient magick ritual and public performance, they don’t just act out their characters, they become them, invoking Gods and archetypes of many mythologies and grounding their attributes.
"Sometimes it can feel quite strange, like you're not yourself, you're possessed or whatever,” Orryelle explains. “But a lot of the time I feel like it's all something within me anyway, something within us all. Even scientists acknowledge this now with the whole DNA thing, that everything we've all experienced is within us as a potential, it's just a matter of accessing it. If it was completely outside us then how could we experience or know it? [So] invoking different deities or archetypes is like expressing different parts of us that we might not normally acknowledge or tap into, a more complete awareness.” Sounds all above board, doesn’t it? Just slip into a nice, comfortable Godform, take on its attributes and use them to enact your will. Well try this on:
“The spirit of Black Eagle came as a great black silhouette - a living shadow of sorts – and alighted on my chest, where its talons sank deep into my flesh, melding into my skin, until I had absorbed the entire shadowy bird within. Then the wings burst out my back, as my head morphed into that of a goat, great horns spiralling up and out from my hairy black forehead.” That’s how Orryelle described the time he ritually invoked the Templar deity Baphomet a few years back. The transformations might all be on the astral level, but the results are reputed to bring forth material from both the subconscious, and the supra-conscious beyond the individual. Knowledge of events and people, ideas, secrets; glimpses of beyond. As Orryelle explains: “Fantasies and astral journeys, or dreams are magickal in their way, but real magick is bringing those fantasies or visions to the physical world so you can then share them with other people. It's all about manifesting things in this world.”
And what better way to ground the realm of ideas than in the canvas of the flesh? Orryelle has been pushing his body to new forms of magickal expression, using it like any artist would a tool. As part of his performance art, which has taken him from the streets of Fitzroy to the Edinburgh Fringe and the world stage, he’s had small bird’s wings sewn on his ears, and wedge-tailed eagle wings sewn onto his back, sutured into the skin and a dozen other bodily mutations each more shocking than the one before. “It's all about focusing on yourself to go beyond the pain for temporary transformations. It's focusing of the will to demonstrate your mutability,” Orryelle tells me. “The [eagle wings] were so large and heavy and were sewn in quite deeply; it really felt like they were part of me,” he sighs. They only lasted 48 hours before decomposition, pain and the logistics of having real wings embedded in his back made it too difficult to continue, but it started a phase of extreme body modification as a magickal act. “The actual body, the human form, is more mutable then we may think,” Orryelle laughs with an impish grin, stoking the fire with a stick.
Ha, it sure is. I remember when my English mate, Tom, first met Orryelle in the middle of Australia back in 2000, on an eco-activist convoy celebrating the Winter Solstice out back of Alice Springs. He’d just conducted another one of his group chakra workings, this time at Uluru, ‘the solar plexus of the world’. He was also taking estrogen, the female growth hormone, as a magickal act, and as he came over the lip of the dusty claypan where we were camped and walked towards us, his top off, a pair of small, pert girl-breasts jiggled on his chest. Tom tried to keep his eyes off his puckish man-woman’s assets, but understandably, his jaw dropped.
“I've always been attracted to the hermaphroditic [both sex organs] Gods/Goddess forms and I love the idea of becoming more feminine in an actual physical, manifest way – but without becoming less masculine,” Orryelle explains when I ask him about his man-boobs, which have receded since he stopped the hormones, although an increased sensitivity has been retained. “But then I found, as I have with any kind of physical transformation that I've done, that… the physical journey began to create spiritual changes. I went further into recognising aspects of my femininity on emotional as well as physiological levels. [Then] nine months or so of taking the estrogen and invoking this inner hermaphroditism, to become as female as I could without becoming any less male, I began to realise I was getting to the end of that process... I couldn't keep doing this without it affecting my masculinity.”
The ‘Crying Game’ maneouver culminated in his own ‘Alchymical Wedding’, where he married himself, first dressed as a bridegroom, then bridesmaid. Then in combined regalia s/he threw a bone boquet with flowers attached and engaged in some spontaneous glossalalia, or speaking in tongues. It was just perfect. Oh sure, so you can imagine him possessed by Baphomet, all tails and horns, but not a wee pair of boobies? Get a grip. No door must go unexplored for the serious magickan. “What we think of as our identity or what we present as our identity is just the surface, and underneath is a more central essence. And that's a scary thing for a lot of people in itself because they identify with the social masks,” Orryelle says.
It makes sense then, that he called his magickal group the ‘Hermaphroditic Order of the Silver Dusk’, both as a counterpoint to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and his own mutational experiments. Orryelle describes it as “an art movement [in which] we totally immerse ourselves in magick. We plunge ourselves into the abyss if need be and see what's really there in the deeper recesses of the subconscious. We use art to do that and to explore the deep self. We don’t just explore a bit of magick symbolism in our artwork. We actually use art to fully explore magick and the untapped and unknown – that's the true meaning of the occult, the hidden.”
The Silver Dusk is the hidden face of his Metamorphic Ritual Theatre public performance troupe, which became famous for their ‘Labyrinth’ art-installation pieces at Confest in the mid-90s. Rather than just being a performance in a theatre, the Labyrinth installations were large mazes woven through the forest, creating paths with string and rope in-between trees. People got totally lost in them in more ways than one. Within the space was a whole world where the Metamorphs took on the roles of different characters and archetypes, mixed in with performers invited in to do their own thing, and punters who were drawn into the act, totally blurring the line between performer and audience. “A lot of people received some kind of transformation or initiation from it, by wandering into another world and becoming absorbed by it. It gave them a realisation of the possibility of creating their own world,” Orryelle says, poking at the embers of the fire.
Indeed. One of my fondest memories of the whole thing is getting zapped on the nipple by a raven-haired beauty with an electric cattle prod. Very arousing, and that’s all part of the magickal theatre, to enagage the senses. Which might be where Hollywood has gotten confused about magickal groups being all some type of Satanic sex orgy. That isn’t always accurate – the truth is that sexuality itself is a very powerful magick force and it can sometimes be used in a group setting if the participants agree. “Kundalini energy is a raw creative fire that can go into sexuality or other types of creativity and expression, arts or ritual,” Orryelle says. “Or it can go into several or all of those things at once. Why not use it for all simultaneously? It's the same basic energy. They can fuel each other.”
That same kundalini energy is also what Orryelle’s been helping raise with his global chakra workings on both a personal and global level. These group rituals “help activate the kundalini of participants and open their chakras at the corresponding sacred sites which are the Earth's charkas in ritual microcosmic resonance with it’s own rising Kundalini,” the magick man explains. He’s led five group workings so far: The first working was at Mt Shasta in California – the base chakra; Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia, is the navel chakra; the solar plexus chakra is Uluru in the centre of Australia, and Glastonbury Tor, in England is the heart chakra. And most recently, just last year, he performed a group throat chakra working in Giza, Egypt that took him deep within the pyramids themselves for an amazing ritual. “Vissudha is the chakra of sound, vibration and communication so the emphasis was upon harmonic chanting and Words of Power, rooted in Ancient Egyptian magick and mythology to resonate with the site of activation,” he says. Just imagine:
The colourful troupe rides across the desert sands on decorated camels and horses, bells jangling and magickal garments blowing in the wind. The Great Pyramid of Giza crests the horizon, they disembark their rides and enter. Cutting through the herd of tourists, the magickians ascend the long, dark, narrow shaft up to the King’s Chamber in a somber silence. Taking deep breaths together, the crew begins chanting the tone of the base chakra, which grows and resonates through the ancient chamber. “When we reached the throat chakra tone itself, the volume and power of its open-mouthed 'Eeeee...' resonance set the guard off again, but his now high-pitched cries were barely audible, and soon ceased. This was the Vissudha Chakra wide open:unsupressed, unstoppable,” Orryelle recollects.
“[We] continued this primary Vissudha tone for as long as possible, wave upon wave of it resonating throughout the pyramid and beyond until we felt to finally shift on up to the third eye's more inward 'mmmmm' humming vibration, then the wyrd harmonics of the tongue-turned-back 'nnng' of the Bindu chakra in the back of the head. The subtleties of this then blasted up into our crowns, voices and spirits exultant in the ecstatic high 'Ohhh' tone of the Sahasrara. We were open to and at one with the Universe, even the guard's last futile and wavering barks now just a speck in this all-pervasive bliss. Grounding back to the low base chakra tone, we paused for a few moments silence, released each others hands and turned to leave, our work there complete.”
Wow. Heavy. Duty. Shit. What strikes me most about Orryelle is the sheer audacity of what he’s doing, of the magickal life he’s living, beyond the realms of everyday perception. He’s brought his magickal self to the internet via his extensive 'Mutation Parlour' site and now his myspace page, which he uses to network the global magickal community for future ritual performances, and is the editor of a printed magickal journal, SilKMilK MagiZain. He’s also a prolific visual and sonic artist, and has recently launched the second edition of his BOOK of KAOS Tarot Deck. His artwork on the tarot cards revels in a raw, elemental energy that captures the images of the Gods and spirits he works with on the astral level and grounds them with ink and paper, often with erotic imagery. "A lot of erotic art touches upon the realms of esoterica, since 'occult' means 'hidden' and there are many realms of sexuality still taboo.” Orryelle calls his art ‘Esoterotica', as it “displays the inner kundalini energy which propels eroticism, rather than just the exoteric or outer play of forms.”
Orryelle’s ultimate goal with the global chakra workings is to culminate the work at the crown chakra (in Tibet) by Solstice, 2012, because there's a large collective vision that there's going to be some kind of mass transformation in or by that year. And transformation is what he thrives on. “It feels like the planet’s kundalini, her fire, her collective energy as an organism is transforming and awakening as a natural progression, perhaps as a response to what's going on in the world,” Orryelle muses. And as she wakes, the magick is returning, or maybe it’s just that more of us are able to see it once again.
Finally, our audience is over. Orryelle stands up and stabs at the dying embers of the fire with his stick, sending a skinny plume of smoke trailing up, stinging my eyes. And when I open them again, he’s gone...
Just like magick.
* A truncated version of this story first appeared in Australian Penthouse Nov 2007. Photos courtesy Orryelle and co.