In my novel, ‘Pharmakeia’, Mahvand and Jean-Baptiste engage in a number of sex-magick sessions. Without giving too much of the plot away, I thought it may be of interest to delve a little deeper into this unusual sexual arena. I gained a lot of my information and inspiration from researching that well-known, Victorian bisexual occultist – Aleister Crowley. Born in 1875, Crowley, who embraced the title of ‘The Beast’, founded the religion and philosophy of Thelema. In Egypt, apparently whilst on his honeymoon, Crowley channelled a supernatural entity that enabled him to write ‘The Book of the Law’. This book was considered sacred by disciples of Thelema who adhered to the dictum ‘Do what thou wilt’ and sought to align themselves with their Will through practicing the dark arts and Sex Magick.
A premise of Sex Magick is the concept that sexual energy is a potent force that can be harnessed to transcend one’s normally perceived reality. One particular practice of sex magick is to use the energy of sexual arousal or orgasm to visualise a desired result.
In Pharmakeia Mhavand and Jean-Baptiste engage in sex magick practices in order to visualise ground-breaking, yet often blasphemous and darkly disturbing pieces of conceptual art. These are referred to in the novel as ‘magical children’…And indeed, there are further parallels between Crowley and JB since Jean-Baptiste also channels a supernatural entity – the demon, Belial, which eventually culminates in his/their book, ‘The Book of Belial’.
As part of my research into Crowley, I made my way through a biography of Crowley by Lawrence Sultin, ‘Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley. In the biography, Sultin writes about Crowley’s homosexual relationship to Victor Neuburg, who became one of Crowley’s disciples. At one point in their relationship they travelled to Algiers and Crowley, with Neuburg as his disciple, performed esoteric rituals and Sex Magick in the desert. Magic circles were drawn in the sand, supernatural entities were summoned and Sultin makes it clear that Neuburg found the experience terrifying and never truly recovered.
So why was I drawn to write about this – or rather to use aspects of Crowley and Neuburg’s relationship and the tenants of Sex Magick to create my own ‘Seduction of an Innocent’ narrative? There are probably several answers to that question. In terms of writing style, I wanted to try something different to the prose style of ‘Homo Jihad’, my debut novel. And at the time I was getting into Angela Carter and other magical-realist writers. There are several elements of the fantastical in Pharmakeia – which I thoroughly enjoyed writing, despite the transgressive nature of the content of these passages! And there are also elements of the fairy tale – Mahvand nearly always wears a red hoodie and lives with his Gran! I also wanted the protagonist, Mahvand Amirzadeh, to transgress on a number of different levels so Sex Magick was an ideal vehicle for sexual transgression. But in some respects, there is also a strong moral compass in the narrative which is perhaps more apparent towards the end when Mahvand is punished for his transgressions. It seems to me that many stories when you strip them down to their bare bones are a conflict between the forces of Light and Dark. This is perhaps encapsulated when Jean-Baptiste, who has just been punched in the face by Geordie transsexual, Candy Darling, says:
‘After the Sons of Light waged war with the Sons of Darkness, the fallen ones came into the daughters of men and taught them charms and spells and showed them the cutting of roots and stems.’