Every year around this time my appetite for all things supernatural increases to a staggering degree. In search of spooky shit that happens to be close to me geographically I usually resort to Google searches for terms like "occult", "spooky", and "haunted", affixed to various nearby locales. Sadly, I rarely find anything new, exciting, or of great interest.
A couple years back I happened to search for "witchcraft" here in Springfield, Massachusetts when I was introduced to the tale of Mary and Hugh Parsons
. The pair were two of the earliest cases of folks unfortunate enough to be accused of witchcraft here in Massachusetts, specifically my home base of Springfield, during the mid-1600's. Both were acquitted of the charges of witchcraft, but Mary, having fallen into mental instability, wound up incarcerated on charges that she'd murdered her young child, and died in prison awaiting trial.
Shortly thereafter I came across another Mary Parsons
, this one married to Cornet Joseph Parsons, one of both Springfield and nearby Northampton's "founding fathers", who was also accused of witchcraft prior to the Salem "witch hysteria" of 1692. I don't know if it was coincidental that both women were named Mary Parsons, or if one case influenced the other, but this
Mary Parsons, Mary (Bliss)
Parsons, was accused of witchcraft twice
, and acquitted both times! Eventually whatever negative associations that may have followed the Parsons name fell away, and her family, which was quite wealthy, went on to produce civil servants and notable citizens across the region for generations.
This gave me pause, as I knew all too well that the parents of noted rocket scientist, occultist, freethinker, and witchcraft enthusiast Jack Parsons
(born Marvel Whiteside Parsons on October 2, 1914, in Los Angeles, California) originated here in Springfield, Massachusetts. His mother Ruth Virginia Whiteside being the daughter of Walter Hunter Whiteside who ran the Stevens-Duryea
automobile corporation, the first American firm to build gasoline powered automobiles. While his father Marvel H. Parsons came from a family who was regarded as having played a role in founding the city and had money in real estate and the Eastern States Refrigeration Company.
Could it be that it was just a coincidence that this man, with roots in Springfield, and a deep connection to the occult, was also a Parsons? Was it possible that Jack Parsons, who was born, lived, and died 3,000 miles away in California, was actually a descendant of Mary Bliss Parsons, accused and acquitted of witchcraft in Northampton and Springfield, Massachusetts three centuries before? These questions started to nag at me, so I decided to do the simple thing and trace the lineage of this scientist and student of Aleister Crowley
. I started with Jack's father Marvel H. Parsons and clicked through the family trees, from son to father, until I arrived at Cornet Joseph Parsons, husband of none other than Mary (Bliss) Parsons! Jack was her direct descendant!
The story of Mary (Bliss) Parsons, not to mention the other Mary Parsons, are rarely spoken of here in Western Massachusetts. There are no monuments or memorials to these women, nor are people regaled with tales of the witchcraft that haunted the woods of the region in those earliest days of European settlement. They're largely unremembered, and they, and similarly eldritch topics, just aren't discussed. It seems as though Springfield and the surrounding area would rather bury any connections this region might have to the strange, weird, spooky, or occult. But is it possible that within the Parsons clan the story remained alive long enough to inspire a young Jack Parsons?
It's been alleged that he began experimenting with witchcraft, supposedly attempting to summon The Devil, while still in high school. And, while a member of Corwley's Ordo Templi Orientis
, he became so interested in the iconography of witchcraft that concern was raised among fellow members. Actress and Thelemite Jane Wolfe
even wrote to Crowley at one point to complain that "our own Jack is enamored with Witchcraft, the houmfort, voodoo. From the start he always wanted to evoke something—no matter what, I am inclined to think, as long as he got a result." That sounds like a soul searching for something long-lost, and long lusted-after, but long-unattainable as well.
Could it be Jack was searching for that which his ancestor had already found but was so ruthlessly hounded for? Did he, in addition to making scientific breakthroughs in rocketry, actually re-discover the lost lore? Sadly, we'll never know as his life was cut short in a fiery explosion, thought to be caused by an accident involving rocketry-related chemicals he stored in his home in Pasadena, California, on June 17th, 1952, at the age of 37. He remains an influential figure in magickal circles, amongst freethinkers, and in the field of jet propulsion. In 1972 the International Astronomical Union named a crater on the Moon in his honor.
So, this is the kind of thing I watch on my phone during trips to and from work on the bus.
Admittedly, I'm a bit too much of a left-handed, anti-authoritarian, do-it-yourself kind of guy to go in for the ritual, theatricality, and group dynamic of ceremonial magick. But I found this instructional video starring author & occultist Carroll "Poke" Runyon, which portrays some rituals of his Golden Dawn spinoff group The Order of the Temple of Astarte
. pretty mesmerizing.
Some of the rituals demonstrated in the video are pretty fascinating in their own right. But for me it was Poke himself, who is oddly charismatic, that really held my attention. Dude is like some kind of hermetic Dave Thomas
. The kind of guy you want to share a burger with after a long day casting spells. And his booming voice and facial expressions throughout the video are fucking classic
You don't have to believe in magick or the occult to enjoy this video.
You just have to believe in Poke.
So, it's settled. Sean "JAY-Z" Carter is an illuminatus. And boy is his coming out somethin'! He sets the record about his personal philosophy straight on "Heaven", one of many Timbaland-and-some-other-dudes-produced tracks from his new record 'Magna Carta Holy Grail'
. And while some critics see two-facedness, backsliding, or sarcasm in the lyrics, my reading is very straightforward. Or at least as straightforward as that of anyone hip to the traditions and rituals of illumination could possibly be.
Conspiracy theorists screamin' Illuminati
They can't believe this much skill is in the human body
He's 6'2, how the fuck he fit in the new Bugatti
Awww, fuck it, you got me
A simple admission that the haters in the media have been "right" the whole time. But with a caveat, that his illumination is something personal, experienced by him as an individual and not derived from a group. He has skills that other mere humans cannot even comprehend having—the classic battle between homo-neophobe and homo-neophile—and he got to where he is through the exploitation of those skills, not the patronage of some imaginary fraternal organization comprised of the rich, famous, and powerful. No old-world cronyism masquerading as a "New World Order" here.
He precedes this startlingly straightforward revelation by making reference to the 5% Nation of Gods & Earths
-derived teaching that Allah is not some "spook" in the sky, but an acronym standing for "arm, leg, leg, arm, head", meaning the form of the Asiatic Black man. This heretical implication that man is God—a basic tenet of any school of illumination—is the first thing out of his mouth on the record, and is quickly followed up by lines which deftly work in the "12 jewels", another core teaching of the NGE.
This places his philosophy firmly in a school of thought that reaches from the 5%ers—as well as Malachi Z. York
's Ansaaru'allah Community, also known as the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors
, of which Jay was an affiliate during the late '80s and early '90s—through the Nation of Islam
, all the way back to The Prophet Noble Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple
. The latter of which traces it's lineage back through various Black nationalist groups, magical cabals, Masonic orders, Sufism, and Hassan-I-Sabbah
, amongst others; connections he expands on a few short lines later.
Question religion, question it all
Question existence until them questions are solved
Meanwhile this heretic, I be out in Marrakesh
Morocco smoking hashish with my fellowship
The lines about indulging in hashish—a substance with a lengthy history as a component of illuminist rituals, not the least of which being Hassan-I-Sabbah's legendary use of the marijuana derivative to make his followers think they'd "seen" heaven—with his "fellowship" in "Morocco" are plain-faced and self-evident. While the two previous lines describe the journey of the illuminatus, who questions everything and achieves answers through self-enlightenment. Or, as it was so elegantly put by both Aleister Crowley
and Robert Anton Wilson
, the path of illumination consists of a never-ended and ever-accelerating procession of "hunchbacks" and "soldiers"—or question-marks and exclamation-points—and to interrupt this process of inquiry is to risk stagnation.
Speaking of RAW, it should be noted that in he and Robert Shea
trilogy protagonist Hagbard Celine
and his entourage are depicted arriving in Ingolstadt, Bavaria for the "immenentization of the eschaton" in a Bugatti. Yeah, I know a Bugatti is a consumerist symbol of vast wealth, and that Beyoncé bought Jay one of the rare and expensive autos, but are you kidding me? Dude just happens to name drop the car Hagbard, the illuminatus to end all illuminatus', takes as a veritable wedding present for himself in the aftermath of a massive, public, act of transcendental illumination on his song addressing his own rumored membership in the Illuminati? Da fuck outta here!
But I digress, as the song progresses he directly denigrates organized religion, quoting Michael Stipe'
s famous lines from R.E.M.
's massive hit "Losing My Religion", and summing it up as a tool used by its adherents—whom he describes as a group of Devil-obsessed "hecklers" and "busters"—to do little but divide. He also compares himself to Jesus, describes himself as "God in the flesh", likens his rhymes to Bible verses, and elevates his own importance above that of a mere "preacher". And again, he makes a not-at-all veiled allusion to the fact that his knowledge may in part stem from the smoking of a psychotropic substance of some kind.
I confess, God in the flesh
Live among the serpents, turned arenas into churches
Uhh, I'm like Michael recycled
These are not sixteens, these is verses from the Bible
Tell that preacher, he's a preacher, I'm a muh-fuckin' prophet
Smoke the tree of knowledge, drink from a gold chalice
The chorus of the song itself utilizes similar sensual imagery, asking the seemingly rhetorical questions "Have you ever been to Heaven? Have you ever seen the gates? Have you bowed unto your highness? And do you know how heaven tastes?" But Jay makes it clear the questions are meant to be taken a bit more literally, and a lot more confrontationally, as he describes the experience of illumination as a literal visit to the gates of Heaven. Yes, he's been to the gates. Yes, he knows what "the tree of knowledge" and the beverage served from the "gold chalice" tastes like. No, he'd never bow down to anyone.
You gotta love it
I arrived at the pearly gates, I had luggage
Meaning I had baggage
Niggas askin' me questions
I don't answer to these busters
Thus he explicates the classic process of personal illumination; where one must separate the logogram—or the "baggage" we're saddled with by society, our parents, so-called authority figures, etc., which fucks us all up—from the biogram—the innate, possibly genetic, knowledge of humanity and its nigh infinite potential—and merely "exist" unburdened by anything, especially the judgements, expectations, and guilt-trips of others still locked into the authoritarian mind-trip as if in a heaven
ly state. That he does it using the symbol-rich language of the logogram itself is quite beautiful in its own way.