Ithell Colquhoun is a towering figure at the fulcrum between Surrealism and occultism – the fulcrum I’m trying to lever open on this blog. But her position within and between the two has perhaps not yet been fully understood.
Those who hail her power as a magician – and there’s now a growing recognition of her stature, thanks in large part to Fulgur Press – often neglect her importance as a Surrealist. Fulgur’s promotional video for Colquhoun’s Decad Of Intelligence, for example, manages not to mention Surrealism at all.
On the other hand, discussions of her as a Surrealist tend to ignore her magickal prowess. Even Penelope Rosemont’s magisterial Surrealist Women: An International Anthology downplays it, merely alluding to “alchemy, Kabbalah, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” as an “atmosphere” that surrounded Colquhoun as a child.
It will be interesting to see how Amy Hale’s forthcoming biography of Colquhoun handles this. Hale has been quite busy lately in the wake of Fulgur’s publication of the Decad and Colquhoun’s Taro, and seems to have carved out a niche as the go-to commentator on Colquhoun. Last year she was interviewed interestingly and at length* on the Occulture podcast, and in addition to her professional academic publications she’s also written some journalistic pieces, such as this article in Sabbat Magazine. She’s also slated to speak at the Magical Women Conference in London this summer. You can bet I’ll be there, with WordPress open and my laptop on my knee.
*Actually the first 15 minutes of the podcast are a bit boring. But skip past that and you’ll get to the good stuff.