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Journey into the Neither-Neither: Austin Osman Spare and the Construction of a Shamanic Identity

Issue: Vol 8 No. 1 (2006)

Journal: Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/pome.v8i1.54


The English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) created a dense and fecund body of work that is built upon a foundation of automa¬tism, the pursuit of a state of Vacuity, and the reification of what Spare termed “Self-Love.” Although a one-time student of Aleister Crowley and clearly influenced by some aspects of Western European esoteric currents, Spare has remained on the margins of the twentieth-century occult revival due both to the complexity of his language and idiosyncratic nature of his system of magical theory and practice. A number of voices have, however, sought to locate Spare and his system within a “shamanic” framework linked to perceptions/constructions of “witchcraft” and “Amerindian sorcery.” This article seeks to examine what this might mean through a discussion of the dual influence of Michael Harner’s core-shamanism and Kenneth Grant’s mediation of Spare, while also providing an overview of Spare’s writings on “trance” techniques designed to address the apparent evidence for his “shamanic” identity.

Author: Christopher J. Miles

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