Posted by on December 5, 2012 in MAGAZINE, Show & Event Coverage

Tuesday night, artist/musician Brian Butler –assisted by Twilight: New Moon actress Noot Seear, and actor Henry Hopper– was supposed to  invoke Bartzabel, the forceful spirit of Mars into to the body of actor/hipster/ James Franco at L&M Gallery to celebrate “For The Martian Chronicles” exhibit, honoring the work of sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. But UPDATE: JAMES FRANCO MISSED HIS FLIGHT AND THERE WAS AN UNANNOUNCED STAND-IN, ACCORDING TO COMMENTS AFTER THIS WENT TO PRESS. We have revised this post to reflect this. According to L&M Gallery, Material Basis was performed by Christopher Emerson.

After banishing and evoking, Butler, dressed in a red robe, with his acolytes in white, bound the masked and blindfolded Franco (also in red) and then using a series of magickal chants, summoned the martial spirit of Bartzabel to enter Franco’s body and speak through the actor. The Bartzebel Working, as this is known, was first performed by Aleister Crowley in 1910, and later by Crowley follower, rocket scientists Jack Parsons who used the spirit of Bartzabel against L. Ron Hubbard after Hubbard had stolen money, a yacht, and Parson’s girl friend from the Jet Propulsion Lab co-founder (and the result is probably why we have Scientology).

In Crowley’s original working, the English arch magician called up Bartzabel to possess his friend poet Victor Neuberg. Crowley then buggered Neuberg/Bartzabel to show him who was boss. That part of ceremony was not performed Tuesday night. However, Franco did recite some of Neuberg’s original lines, which made me, and other occultists present, wonder if this wasn’t more of a performance piece than an actual magickal working. Add in that despite the act of invoking and drawing a magical circle, at the end of the ritual, there was no closing or banishing–kinda like sterilizing a jar, making jam, then leaving it unsealed in a toilet.

On hand to witness the event: cool cat Pop Surrealist Anthony Ausgang; author Paul Koudounaris, PhD. who’s following up on his beautifully photographed and written book The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses with a new volume about jeweled skeletons; Velvet Hammer Burlesque founder Michelle Carr who has her own book about the seminal all-ages punk club Jabberjaw coming out soon; “For The Martian Chronicles” curator Yael Lipschutz; and Gagosian Gallery‘s Sonny Ruscha Bjornson, whose brother Eddie Ruscha was DJ’ing the event; plus a packed house of celeb gawkers, some Twihards, thrill seekers, and magical tourists.

The crowd waits for the ritual to begin.

Noot Seear poses before the start.


Seear and Brian Butler, the Chief Magus, begin the Bartzabel Working






Butler creats magick circle with a sword. Looks good, but it’s not by the book.

Butler circles clockwise, drawing a pentagram in each direction.

“No grace, no guilt. Do what thou wilt.”

The magic triangle, with the sigil of Bartzabel.


Material Basis is led into the triangle, which will hold Bartzabel’s spirit captive, thanks to the magick words around it.


The Material Basis must be bound as well as blindfolded and masked.


Chief Magus confronts Bartzabel and questions him.

At first the spirit is defiant.


But Bartzabel succumbs.


The spirit submits to the Chief Magus. Time to party to the tunes of Eddie Ruscha.


Gagosian’s Sonny Ruscha Bjornson.


Yael Lipschutz, “For The Martian Chronicles” curator.




Paul K and Anthony Ausgang.



Paul K and Michelle Carr