Cameron, Holy Guardian Angel according to Aleister Crowley, 1966. Courtesy of the Cameron Parsons Foundation, Santa Monica. Photo Credit: Alan Shaffer
Dark star, I seek you. I have entered the name of chaos.
Know the Reason For Your Summoning
Summon the spirit of Cameron Parsons when you want the strength to follow your passions without caring what anyone thinks of you. If conjured correctly, she can help you burst forth from the iron maiden of disapproval and pursue your artistic visions: dark flowers, moons, gardens, angels and aliens, monoliths and faces in trees, lesbians and the witch goddess, Aradia. She will show you how to lure Pan the satyr so that he plays his pipes for you, blazes his eyes, curls his wicked brows and longs for you, his heart and phallus enflamed like a jilted lover. Cameron will show you how to walk into a room and make it go silent. Make people’s hands tremble as they hold their tea. She will teach you to cause a scene and make the cops come. She will show you how to disappear so that people want to come find you. Because Cameron is the Goddess of Recognition dear Initiate, and as its Queen, she can take it or leave it. Through her, you will learn to do likewise.
Be forewarned, performing these rites requires daring. People with a 401k match and degrees rated top 10 by Forbes magazine might tell you these rites are impractical and that eventually you’ll regret them. Even people with no degrees might tell you that. You might worry, “what if I follow my passions and I end up dying in poverty?” Or that you’ll become alienating; that your high school friends will gossip about “what happened to you”, or that you’ll no longer be invited home at Thanksgiving. These are real dangers. Cameron Parsons could possess you, for example, she might convince you to burn your work, to release the spirits inside it to reunite with their source. If you don’t take the proper precautions, the closer you draw to the Scarlet Woman of Babalon, the more likely you are to disintegrate midair and fall to earth like a flaming meteorite. Following your passions carries a high price, so you must be fearless, as she was, with nothing to prove.
You’ll make best use of this spell if you were born feral, even and especially if you’ve had your wildness leached out of you. As if you had once been a wheezing hissing snarling sinewy mountain lion, and your school and the Verizon website and all your stupid jobs were the Costco parking lot. And the lot kept growing and pushing you further and further towards the abyss. And your wild self eventually leapt into that chasm rather than giving up its pelt to be soaked with Coors and pelted with bottle caps on the floor of a fraternity game room. Use this spell to spring your wild self back from the void, rising as an angry angel blasting her horn. Perform the rite alone, and you may become an eccentric cult figure. But do it with your tribe and together you can summon the beasts. Straddle them as you ride through the streets of the city, causing Sigalerts, jamming cellphone signals, forcing the police helicopters to collide midair.
So, if you’re still reading, and have the guts to conjure the spirit of Cameron Parsons, then you must begin by being irresponsible. Leave your parking tickets wadded in the glove compartment of your car. Leave your child playing with the fairies that she says live at the foot of your garden. And know that once you conjure the Scarlet Woman, there is no going back. Your entire life will need to adjust. She will appear to you in your dreams. No more will you be able to abide fluorescent lights or muzak, or cross a threshold into a waiting room stuffed with back issues of Us Weekly. You’ll live in a shack in the desert, washing your clothes in a bucket, before you allow yourself to stay in a carpeted apartment in the valley, even if it does have a pool. Your life will be irrevocably altered, dear Initiate. Only summon the spirit of Babalon when you are ready to be reborn.
Know the Spirit You are Calling
Cameron was a witch artist born in a cornfield, or, at least she was born in 1922 somewhere in Iowa. Lustful angels slipped up from the earth, fluttering like moths through the corn to chomp through her nightgown as she lay in bed at night. She had abortions and bi-sexual affairs before she completed high school. Craving adventure and the open seas, in 1943 she joined the Navy where she drew topographic maps of islands and ocean floors, drew maps grasped by dying soldiers as they searched for a way out of the war, their ghosts haunting her long after they had died. Eventually she went AWOL, though by some mysterious intervention she was honorably discharged. At age 23 she came to Pasadena where she drew fashion illustrations for ladies’ magazines. It was in Pasadena that she became a goddess, or rather, found out that she was one.
One night, an old Navy buddy she didn’t even like took her to a party at a mansion on millionaire row in Pasadena. The scene was Bacchanalian, candle lit and churning with slippery couples, chattering beat poets, physicists in hot debate with writers of science fiction. Across the darkened din stood a man with thick black hair and a sensual mouth, his eyebrows pointed like the tufts of an owl. He stared at her as if she bore the mark of the beast, and she did: her thick red hair. It was he, Jack Parsons, occult magician, rocket scientist and founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratories that had performed an Enochian rite less than a year before with future guru L. Ron Hubbard. Their goal had been to invoke She Who is the Gateway to the Pyramids; She Who is Lust and Earth and Love incarnate, the Scarlet Woman of Babalon. Before the party ended, Cameron and Jack had christened his sheets with semen and vaginal juice and menstrual blood, the lunar elixirs of sex magic. The two lovers conducted these rites for three weeks, never leaving his bed. They married soon after.
But within a year Cameron had run off to Mexico. She took lovers on the steps of forgotten temples and imbibed the liquors of Surrealism, leaving her husband at home in Pasadena to have sad affairs and figure out how to send a rocket to the moon. But eventually she returned, and for three years they made magic. She illustrated his astrological poems. They had brunch with Aleister Crowley. Then, on the night before they were to leave on an intercontinental adventure, Jack blew himself up. His alchemical orchestrations backfired when he accidentally dropped a vial of fulminated mercury. Flames engulfed his laboratory. A few hours later, his mother killed herself. Cameron, in her grief, moved to the Mojave Desert.
By moonlight, in the barren rocks and sand she spent years attempting to conjure the spirit of her departed lover. It was through these practices she learned her craft. She became a witch and lived for another 40 years making devotional paintings of angels and spirits and ectoplasms; writing poems and avoiding the L.A. art world’s version of the paparazzi. She played the Scarlet Woman in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. She married, she divorced, she had a child, she corresponded with Joseph Campbell. She died poor in a small West Hollywood bungalow. But she lives on in us, the crystal gazing artists. We who haunt the halls of art schools and tarot shops, we who are lustily called girls when we’re young and then patronizingly called girls when we’re older. We who will dance naked around the bonfire of Western Civilization while it burns in the pitch of its own smug rationality and cancerous ignorance. We who will build a new, wild world from the ashes. A world of vast deserts and hanging gardens, lit with gaseous orbs, populated by earth spirits and the lustful angels of love.
Know the Procedure of the Ceremony
Wear draping robes and perform the rites at a site with which Cameron’s spirit is familiar. In a mansion in Pasadena. Or a woodsy Topanga craftsman surrounded by fire-singed oaks and Manzanita groves, or even in a cramped bungalow in West Hollywood. Set up an altar with your devotional objects: a walnut, ripe and bursting with life; heady, intoxicating flowers and whipping silk flags; an ornate bronze chalice and a wand wrapped in laurel leaves.
Execute the spell when the sun is in the sign of Taurus, the sign of the lady’s birth, exactly at midnight of on the eve of the full moon. Start with five fat, juicy peyote buttons on a silver plate. Chew them slowly. Close your eyes and you will see angels appearing like ink drops in milky water, their black threads dissolving into children, demon horses and ghosts. A whole procession of medieval wizards and spirit animals. Horny aliens will mount you and your back will arch and your tongue will unfurl and flick like a snake as your swollen veiny breasts hang low.
Scatter red sand and then dance over it in a circle until the line you create looks like paw tracks left by a sphinx. Into this circle you must take a hundred lovers. Don’t tell them why they’re there. Simply fuck them and smear their erotic juices upon a plate with honey and wax, sulfur, silver, and mercury. When this concoction starts to smoke, say in a voice that is low, grave, and slightly sinister:
I summon you, Scarlet Woman of Babalon. You who hold the office of Isis. You who takes all those who come to you, you who refuses no one. O Great Lady who exacts the price of blood. Mother and whore, destroy the old era and transform the world. Come to me now and change my life.
Keep repeating the words. Do not relent. Know in the splitting green seed of your heart that you are entitled to beauty and magic and wildness. You are conjuring millions of years of matter and consciousness, condensing it for a brief moment into a dynamic heroine, recalcitrant and mercurial, willing to venture into unknown territories, to take you beyond the places you have been afraid to go.
Write her a letter. Use arcane language and elaborate metaphors. Douse yourself in the spirits of surrealism and chant their names: Tanning, Carrington, Varo. With a thistle colored pencil, make a series of drawings describing the exact dimensions of ectoplasm. Make a thousand of these. Fill up a whole sketchbook. If you are poor and don’t have fancy paper, draw on cardboard. Let nothing deter you. As you draw, be sensitive to smells: burning sulfur, sex and gasoline. These smells will appear when she is near. You’ll hear an angry hiss when the door between the worlds splits open.
First will come roaring a lion-headed beast with four breasts and the body of a woman. Next will come a litany of angels, black of palm, wild of hair, with precisely articulated feet, twisting and turning then disappearing like smoke. All these spirits will recognize you, identify you, but remember, you don’t need their acceptance. As elementals, they are neutral and at your command.
Cameron will appear last, like a haboob, a desert storm, screeching across a sandy plain. She will stand before you in the shadows, a wraith, a fairy, an elfin queen in the darkness appearing in one of three forms. As a maiden wearing silks with lustrous red hair, slanted green eyes, and a wide mouth lacquered in red and bursting with teeth. As a woman of middle years, her hair shorn and thick like a rabbit’s, eyes painted with Egyptian kohl, severe as death, speaking in some arcane angel language with a slight mid-western accent. Or she will manifest as an old woman, her hair white and wizardy now, she will come wearing a kimono, shifting her weight and plunging her Tai Chi sword. But in each of these incarnations she will say, “I am the queen of witches and I remind you that magic is the source of all life. You, women who want to know the secrets of the ages, follow me. See through my eyes. I existed before you conjured me. I come from I-O-Wa.”
Now that she is here, read her your letter. But know that like all oracles, her answers may be cryptic or puzzling. For example she might say, “The end of the quest is the end of questioning.” She is Lilith and you can follow the map of her body out beyond the oasis of Babalon. She will speak to you of myths. The purpose of them. They are an archive of the human race, she will tell you, an archive of human experience. Myths are our vaults, the mausoleums and libraries of consciousness. “And you are a goddess too,” she will say, smiling enigmatically, “Though you don’t know it yet. But don’t just hang around waiting for the right person to point it out to you.”
Following the ritual, pay attention to whom comes into your life. You never know when she will appear to you, or how she will manifest. You have summoned a wild spirit of art and sex and magic. Take courage, but know dear Initiate that there is a price for all of this power. You might explode.
About the Show:
Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman is on show now at MOCA PDC through January 11, 2015. The show is organized by MOCA Senior Curator Alma Ruiz and curated by guest curator Yael Lipshutz. To find out more visit the MOCA website.