Tales of Magic 11: The Temple at the Squat
In Summer 1978 I moved into a house in Leeds where a friend was living. It was a peculiar arrangement – my friend had started living there as a rent-paying tenant, but the landlord had apparently gone missing over a year before. So it was called a squat, but could easily be thought of as a rented property with nonexistent arrears collection.
I was there till November 1980, so it was the home setting for much of my early magical history.
It was a corner house, a big Victorian terrace with 5 bedrooms and two rooms downstairs. And in poor repair; the electricity supply for instance was a standing joke, in particular a cluster of wires from a presumed older wiring job which hung down just above head height in the hallway. On more than one occasion, my housemate warned people ‘Mind out, it’s the home ECT kit.’ Then one night, convinced they weren’t live, he grabbed the wires and pulled them down, blowing the fuses in a circuit we hadn’t known was still connected to the mains.
This was the time during which I started going to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. As well as browsing the books and enjoying the dark atmosphere exuded by the mixture of mysterious objects on display, I loved the smell, which wasn’t quite like anything I’d encountered before. I’ve always been fascinated by smells, and the aroma of the SA was another face of the mysteries to explore. The source of that complex aroma was the immense variety of aromatics – essential oils, perfume blends and herbs, and the dozens of ready-made incenses. Joss sticks had soared in popularity in my youth, and had been part of my life for years; only once, at the 1971 Glastonbury Fair, had I smelled proper ritual incense, the sort that is mostly resins with added herbs and oils, the sort that needs to be burned on hot charcoal. I was transported; this was something completely new. This was the Real Stuff, the genuine article for an aromatics fiend. Now, in the SA, I was being given the opportunity to choose from a vast selection of just this type of incense. I bought a packet of Venus and a roll of charcoal.
When I got back to my room at the squat, I was like a kid with a new toy. I lit a sputtering charcoal disc and sprinkled on it a little of the Venus incense. While I was contemplating the gorgeous smelling smoke, my girlfriend came round. There was a knock at the door, then another. Three lovely women, the other two of whom had come round to look for other people in the house, were now in my room. This pleasant little synchronicity convinced me of the importance of magical incense.
Another magician moved in. The magical atmosphere of the house thickened up. The weirdness extended to the plumbing. I’ve written elsewhere (in Bright From the Well https://mandrake.uk.net/bright-from-the-well-northern-tales-in-the-modern-world/) of the unpleasant vibe we started to notice on the ground floor, and how my girlfriend and I attempted to overcome it with the energy of sex magic, and how that exciting but ill-judged working was closely followed by a water pipe bursting and flooding the cellar.
I managed a few summer months in the front downstairs room then another housemate moved out and I took over his room, which was upstairs, warmer and drier. We cleared my enormous old room out and made it into a temple where we meditated or did Qabalistic pathworkings, or used a Pentagram rite to ‘open the Quarters’ and just explore magical spaces. After Sorcerer’s Apprentice coffee mornings, we often invited people back for sessions in our temple. On one of those occasions, we hosted Mike and Marian from Southampton, two magicians who were working with their own unique blend of Qabalistic, Enochian and I Ching astral doorways. In our humble temple, they led a combined Opening of the Quarters. It was the first time I had been so electrified by ceremonial magic. As Mike vibrated the Enochian words over my head, I felt as if I was being filled with radiant, structured energy. I had discovered a new magical experience, and wanted more.
Dave Lee is the author of several books, including Chaotopia, Bright From the Well and Life Force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magick. Visit his website and sign up for his newsletter.