CARTWHEEL BLOG: “Twilight” Star Noot Seear, Brian Butler Perform Aleister Crowley Ritual

Posted by on Dec 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

 

26 Comments

  1. Brendan
    December 5, 2012

    ” I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” – Revelations 3:15-16

    As a self-professed follower of Crowley’s for well-nigh 15 years, I wanted to enjoy this event – I really did. Sadly, I think this was one of the worst examples of “magick as community theater” I’ve ever witnessed, and that is saying something. Even the typically lackluster performances of many occult groups shine in comparison to this… whatever it was.

    On the way to the event, some friends and I debated what exactly to expect. Would it be an actual (attempted) evocation of Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars? Would it rather be a piece of performance art inspired by Crowley’s evocation of the same? It was neither – or, to be more specific, it was BOTH and that’s why it failed miserably.

    Evocation is an art unto itself. Even if one is skeptical as to the efficacy of magical activity outside the purely psychological realm, one must recognize the fact that every art form has its own rules. Film has its rules. Theater has its own. Performance art also has certain ideals and conventions that make exclusive demands on the artist. Successful evocation is no different. Mr. Butler should make up his mind whether or not he’s actually a magician, or “just playing one on TV”.

    If you want to do ritual, do actual ritual – and let that intent set the demands for the performance. If you want to show off in front of an audience, do performance art, and make it the best performance you possibly can. Frankly, the event failed even at that level, as Mr. Butler sounded like he was reading a grocery list, and Mr. Franco sounded like he did his pre-performance study by watching the Exorcist. I am neither a professional artist, nor an actor, and I could have done better.

    Love under Will,

    Brendan

    PS: As always, it was lovely seeing you and catching up Lisa.

    Reply
  2. Lisa Derrick
    December 5, 2012

    There is video of the performance now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83YYDHxJpHc

    Reply
  3. TheSinkingSpell
    December 5, 2012

    James Franco missed a flight or something to that effect and was not present at the event. An employee of the gallery told me this at the event. I do not know who was invoking Bartzabel.

    Reply
  4. Casey
    December 5, 2012

    Everyone can have their opinion…

    Art has no rules.

    P.s. that wasn’t Jame Franco it was a last minute change.

    Reply
  5. Greg
    December 5, 2012

    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    Just watched the video. Were I Bartzabel, I would have torn them all to shreds. Butler’s approach is weak, and there is nothing of the imperious in his voice. He’s just reading, which does not a Mage make! He has, obviously, never been Initiated into a Contacted Order, since he fails for every veil in the published ritual. (Do you really think Crowley *didn’t* veil things in so potentially dangerous a ritual?) The “acolytes” were nothing more than stage dressing… Furniture with a pulse. Whoever was in the Triangle of Evocation gave a performance with about as much truth as a Congressman. Shameful attention hounds! May Camael send forth Bartzabel to each of them, that they may know the wrath of Elohim Gibor.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    Reply
  6. Lisa Derrick
    December 5, 2012

    I wonder if as many people would have come had the Material Basis not been announced as James Franco, who missed his flight and was replaced by Christopher Emerson. In other words, was it the celeb factor, rather than the occult aspect that drew a crowd? 50/50? 93/7?

    Reply
  7. Casey
    December 5, 2012

    I had a similar thought Lisa.

    And a comment to the ‘experts’

    A. It was a performance! The fact that it was advertising celebrity actors should be enough for you to understand what was being done.

    B. Can’t we appreciate the service that is provided in showing the public what it may be like to actually do these things that are usually only read about? i.e. You can do it to!

    I can only applaud and give respect to everyone that helped to put this together.

    If you have an issue with delivery, well let’s see you do it!

    Peace and Love

    Reply
    • Brendan
      December 5, 2012

      Well, that’s kind of my point Casey, it wasn’t clear if it was “just a performance” or “a ‘real’ evocation”. I think that ambiguity was intentional.

      Even as a performance, it was lackluster and failed. I suspect this comes from being a “mush” that was neither one thing, nor the other. Actual ritual often doesn’t look as impressive to an audience as a well managed stage performance. That’s the nature of the beast – pun intended.

      Reply
      • Casey
        December 5, 2012

        I like your pun and will say that I agree.

        🙂

        Reply
    • Mark
      December 6, 2012

      Casey: You can do the ritual if you want to, but you will be responsible for the results, and there will be results. The results are reportedly serious enough to where I would rather leave it to the experts.

      Reply
      • Casey
        December 6, 2012

        Well practice makes perfect that is for sure! Hopefully people on the path will start with something gentle and progress naturally.

        Some people may even warn a young person to stay away from Crowley until a certain age. But I do get the feeling that these things come into a persons life because it was time.

        I appreciate being able to see in person what some of this ceremonial magick stuff looks like IRL. Like the floor design and sigils, robes etc. All there seems to be are grainy black and white photos from the turn of the century.

        I think a group was going to perform a gnostic mass at burning man last summer. I wonder if they did and how it turned out? A buddy I know who doesn’t really believe in much of this stuff remarked that this year when he went into the temple at burning man he was like whoa! you can feel it. And it has gotten him to start thinking maybe they aren’t making this stuff up. I have no idea if they are connected in some way but I sure do hope.

        I have really enjoyed everyone’s comments on this page. And love that it is a funny and balanced conversation.

        Maybe we can all get together and invite some star power to draw down the moon sometime soon!

        🙂

        Reply
  8. Tanja
    December 5, 2012

    “Missed a flight” my big fat ass! I believe James Franco was never going to be part of the “performance” to begin with, and that was all part of the plan. Which makes Brian Butler an expert illusionist, utter fraud, or a mixture of both. Either way, Butler got what he wanted out of this: an audience and some press. Well done, Brian!

    Reply
  9. Lisa Derrick
    December 5, 2012

    Casey, with respect, there’s a lot of magick one should not try at home with a “Hey, anyone can do this” attitude. There’s building a shelf from Ikea, and then there’s building a house. Full scale rituals involving the invocation/evocation of deities and other entities should be tackled with care. And any ritual should be closed appropriately to avoid leakage.

    Reply
  10. Lisa Derrick
    December 5, 2012

    Tanja, you have a point–considering how well he had his lines down, Emerson was certainly ready for his role as last minute stand-in!

    Reply
  11. Blyss
    December 6, 2012

    So interesting to read other peoples observations on Brian Butler. I attended an event in Seattle back in April with Brian Butler in attendance. He was showing some of his own films and also others with an ‘occult’ influence. I also had the sense that he was playing at being ‘the magician’ – that his interest is primarily fueled by the attention he can garner from his association with Anger and Crowley. I smell a charlatan.

    @Brendan – Love it that you started your review with that quote from Revelations – so apropos.

    Reply
  12. raven chant
    December 6, 2012

    just watched the youtube and this was a horrible rendition – i could accept it as a “ritual as performance art” piece if it wasn’t done so poorly – this brian butler fellow sounds like a political candidate reading from a teleprompter, not a trace of magic in his voice, no enthusiasm and apart from the robes and set design, so attention to detail. more like ritual as spectacle

    Reply
  13. Mysteria Misc. Maxima: December 14th, 2012 « Invocatio
    December 14, 2012

    […] yeah, this public performance of the Bartzebel Working happened. […]

    Reply
  14. Republicrat
    December 18, 2012

    Anyone who rejects religion but accepts this crap is a greater fool than those he mocks.

    Reply
    • Lisa Derrick
      December 18, 2012

      Religion has many faces and belief systems. Many people who practice ritual magick do so as as aspect of their religion. I can’t speak for the performers at this ritual, but many in attendance that night were religious people.

      Reply
  15. K
    January 21, 2013

    Yes, true, if the celebrities names were not on this performance would that many of people have shown up? But if their names were not on it would you still have taken the time to write this review? Look at the first name in your title. This is obviously not the first ritual performance of Butler’s but seems to be the only one to have caught your criticism. Your review is elementary and attention seeking. Citing that this was more of a performance than an actual magical working – who are you to write yelp reviews on altered states of consciousness? I have a feeling that every person at that performance will remember it for a good majority of their lives. That’s powerful unto itself and a great accomplishment. If you were familiar with Crowley you would have known he frowned on the banishing ritual anyways, so that’s really nothing for you to dwell on. Writer’s often criticize in others what they find familiar in themselves, and I believe this article says a lot about you, notably when you refer to the “magical tourists” who were present this night.

    Reply
    • MSimon
      March 2, 2013

      I cleared up a very bad case of PTSD with nothing but banishing rituals. Intent is what matters of course. What ever AC’s opinion it worked for me.

      Reply
      • MSimon
        March 2, 2013

        My Magical Sword was a suitable (but very cheap) pocket knife. It is not the tools. It is the Magician.

        Reply
  16. MSimon
    March 2, 2013

    Watching the video I was put off from the beginning. What a half arsed banishing. I lost interest after that. A real banishing would have cleared the air and shut up the audience. I did better rituals in worse spaces with Panthea in Chicago.

    Reply
  17. James Franco Narrowly Avoids Possession | Peter Pendragon
    September 1, 2013

    […] the a ritual produced by artist Brian Butler designed by Crowley as an invocation of Mars. It was reported that hollywood heavy hitter and occult-curious James Franco was supposed to be the vessel for which […]

    Reply

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