The Sex Magick Corpus of Ithell Colquhoun
Between the years of 1940 and 1942 Ithell Colquhoun completed dozens and dozens of intensely explicit, and highly theorized small paintings, many of which were too sexually explicit ever to be shown in public. Colquhoun pulled no punches when it came to depicting the sexual act. Fingers, mouths and phalluses engaged in penetration and reception in incredible detail. Many of the tighter and more finished pieces of this series are quite small, about the size of a playing card, featuring most frequently a male figure (blue) and a female figure (red) engaging in a variety of sexual acts, including intercourse, oral and manual sex. Other later pieces in the series abstracted the bodies and featured only the energy lines of sexual union. While most featured a male and female figure, some images featured men with male angels, and one featured two women. This was her quest to represent, and ultimately work toward, becoming the Divine Androgyne. This was a remarkable and boundary breaking project for a woman artist to undertake during most periods in history, but that she did so during the early 1940s genuinely demonstrates her maverick sensibilities.
In this artistic series Colquhoun was synthesizing tantric, alchemical and Kabbalistic sources to depict the generation of the Philosopher’s Stone through sexual union. Colquhoun believed that the union of the “male” and “female” on both a physical and etheric level was an essential precondition to returning to the divine state which is our birthright. She also believed that society needed to embrace “the feminine”, and that transcending gender as a whole will create the conditions for enlightenment, genuine liberty and freedom. This illustrated presentation will explore this body of work, her influences and motivations, concluding with an analysis of her short 1943 manifesto “Water Stone of the Wise” where she stresses the critical importance of the Divine Feminine to achieving the full liberation of humanity.
Dr. Amy Hale is an Anthropologist (PhD Folklore, UCLA) specializing in modern Cornwall and contemporary esoteric history and culture. She has co-edited 4 books and has written over 30 chapters and articles ranging from modern Druidry to the politics of the British Earth Mysteries movement. She is a former co-editor of the Journal of the Academic Study of Magic and sits on the editorial boards of the Black Mirror Research Network and Correspondences Journal. She has been a featured speaker for the Conference on Contemporary Pagan Studies at the Claremont School of Theology, the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU and I:MAGE at the Warburg Institute in London, and is the Co-Chair of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Section for the American Academy of Religion. She has been researching the life of Ithell Colquhoun for over a decade and has worked on two publications for Fulgur LTD regarding Colquhoun’s work, The Decad of Intelligence (2017) and Taro as Colour (2018). Her biography of Colquhoun is scheduled for release with Strange Attractor Press in 2019. Samples of her writing and project updates can be seen at www.amyhale.me.