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Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956)



Written and compiled by George Knowles


Austin Osman Spare was an artist, philosopher and occult magician.  Like Aleister Crowley with whom he had a brief association, Spare was a genius in his own time unappreciated and vilified by a society that could little understand him.   His was the inspiration that led to the formation of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros' (IOT) in England in the late 1970’s and the practice of what is now known as 'Chaos Magic', (see Chaos Magic below).


Austin Osman Spare was born on the 30th of December 1886.  He was born of humble roots, the middle child and only son of five children.  His father was a policeman who often worked the night shift.  Money was short for the Spare family but when the young Spare began to show an unusual propensity for drawing and art, they managed to find enough funds to send him to art school.


At the age of seven somewhat alienated and oppressed by the females of his family, his mother and four sisters.  Spare was befriended by a mysterious old women, a sorceress by the name of Mrs. Patterson.  Spare would often refer to her as his second mother, his 'Witch-mother'.  She taught Spare how to visualize and evoke spirits and elementals to reify his dream imagery.  She also initiated Spare into witchcraft during a sabbat meeting and gave him his craft name 'Zos'.


Mrs. Patterson greatly influenced the young Spare.  It was said that she could change her appearance from an old women to that of a young temptress at will.  She also had other unusual powers as well.  A portrait drawing Spare drew of her at the time, is reputed to change before the eyes of those who look upon it.


Spare left school at the age of 13 to serve an apprenticeship in a stained glass works.  During the evenings he continued his education at an Art College in Lambeth, South London.  This led to a scholarship at the Royal College of Art where he began to study in earnest.



In 1904 at the age of 17 years, Spare exhibited his first pictures at the Royal Academy.  His pictures caused a storm and excelled his popularity in the Art world.  He then published his first book in 1905 entitled 'Earth Inferno'.  This was a book of drawings depicting human figures in grotesque postures and contained some of the semi-human spirit forms he was able to visualize.  It also included commentaries that show his insight into the workings of the human mind and his spiritual leanings.


In 1908 Spare opened an exhibition at the Bruton gallery in London were his drawings and paintings soon became popular among the London 'Smart set', the Intellectuals, Art collectors, and Dandy’s of his time.  He also came to the attention of Aleister Crowley who commissioned Spare to create drawings for his magazine 'The Equinox'.  This led Spare into joining Crowley’s 'Argentium Astrum', an occult society known as the 'Order of the Silver Star' in 1910.


However, his association with Crowley didn’t last long, for Spare had begun work on his best known book 'The Book of Pleasure', and was beginning to form his own ideas concerning the practice of magic.  The Book of Pleasure is considered one of his most important works, as well as drawings, it includes detailed instructions for his system of sigilization and the well known 'death postures'.  He has much to say about human hypocrisy, religion and the meanings of true personal freedom and power.


Spare joined the army in 1916 and served as an official 'War Artist' during the First World War.  He was posted to Egypt were the animal-headed gods and magical religions of Ancient Egypt appealed to his insightful nature as an artist and mystic.  During the Second World War while working at home in London, his house was hit and devastated by a 'blitz' bomb blast.  Spare was injured and left paralyzed down his right side.  Many believed he would never draw again but within six months he had regained the use of his right arm and once again began to draw.  Many credit the speed of his recovery to his personal elementals and familiars.



The Focus of Life


In 1921 Spare published 'The Focus of Life', another book of drawing containing his unique magical commentaries.  Here he mentions the word 'Chaos' in relation to the normality of chaos as the natural order of things and in the self:  “The more chaotic – the more complete I am”, he say’s.  He philosophizes and speaks of existence, sex, ecstasy and sensation, also about self-love, belief and the 'chaos of the normal'.


By 1924, Spare was at the height of his artistic success, but his success as an artist began to conflict with the philosopher within.  He became disenchanted with his trendy 'Jet Set' friends and the benefactors with whom he had become so popular.  He excommunicated himself by writing another book entitled 'The Anathema of Zos', and flaunted their hypocrisies in their faces.  He returned to South London where he lived in relative obscurity as a recluse.


Little is known of his activities during this time except that he lived in a small basement flat caring little for money or fame.  He made a small living drawing portraits of common people in the local pubs and selling them for small amounts of money.  While he wasn’t publishing during this time, he continued to write and develop his philosophy, art and magic.




In 1947 Spare met with Kenneth Grant and gradually become more involved with other occultists of the time.  He met Gerald Gardner in the early 1950’s who engaged him to create sigils, magical talismans and other ritual aids.  At the same time he began work on a definitive Grimoire called the 'Zos Kia Cultus', this was to contain the accumulation of his magical secrets.  Austin Osman Spare died on the 15th of May 1956, his work on the Grimoire unfinished.


In his later years Spare became obsessed with sex magic and immersed himself in the worship of Isis and other Egyptian deities.  He then integrated this into his practice of Witchcraft, as reflected in his artwork of cultural themes.  His obsession with sex magic turned him to many perverse sexual activities that the society of his time could not understand.  He believed that sexually repulsive acts caused certain chemical changes within the body, thus transforming the magical consciousness.


Little could he have realized the impact his work would have on the future generations of witches and magician’s.  His work was finally recognized and led to the formation of the “Illuminates of Thanateros” (IOT) in England in the late 1970’s, a tradition practicing what is now known as “Chaos Magic”.


Chaos Magic


In the late 1970's some twenty years after the death of the great “Austin Osman Spare” (1886-1956), a Mr. Carroll and Mr. Sherwin formed the "Illuminates of Thanateros" (IOT), a new tradition that became synonymous with Chaos Magic. Chaos Magic is based primarily on the workings and philosophy of Austin Osman Spare. It would seem to me that Chaos Magic is not exactly Witchcraft. While it incorporates witchcraft, its the cutting edge of "High Magic" and is more into the realm of the Magician than that of the Witch.


To explain Chaos Magic I can do no better than to quote the authors introduction to a book I have recently read, “Understanding Chaos Magic - by Jaq D. Hawkins”. I do so in the interest that shared information helps us all, and have adapted the text slightly for use here:


"Chaos Magic is the newest and fastest growing area of hands-on practical magic available to the modern magician. It is an area of study that disposes of the need for religion, or pre-packaged philosophy and superstition in the use of magic. The Chaos Magician seeks to understand the natural laws behind the workings of magic, and the- reasons behind the use of ritual in the performance of a magical working.


Chaos magic leaves the practitioner free to establish his/her own ideas of method, ethics and the appropriate uses of magic. It is magic for a liberated free thinker who is able to go beyond the teachings of any book to the outermost reaches of imagination in the creation of one's own magical world.


It is magic based on the concept of the primal creative force itself, a realm of infinite probability. Creative Chaos is a subject most useful to experienced magicians who can determine for themselves the risk factor in the release of powerful spells that work.


While the actual practice of this form of magic is recommended only for the experienced magician, the subject is of interest to anyone who can understand the way the mind can effect our environment.


Chaos Magic is based on natural laws, many of which are only just beginning to be understood by the scientific community. Stripped of superstition and religious bigotry, it is a realm where fact meets theory, and results are the objective.


This is a magical philosophy that transcends tradition and dogma. It is a journey toward results rather than hierarchical megalomania. It is as useful and effective to the individual as it is for a group, and infinitely adaptable to the needs of the many or the few. Any and all methods are allowed and encouraged, the only requirement is that it works.


Chaos Magic is the cutting edge of modern magic. It is on the minds and lips of magic users of all descriptions and in many parts of the world. As we learn more and more about the nature of magic and reality, we are beginning to realize that behind all forms of magic, are the natural laws of Chaos".


Adapted from the introduction of a book by: Jaq D. Hawkins – “Understanding Chaos Magic”, 1996.





Understanding Chaos Magic  - By Jaq D. Hawkins

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi  

The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft  - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.


Fulgur Limited is a small publisher specialising in Austin Spare and Kenneth Grant.  They have published most of the major works on Spare over the last 12 years, including the bulk of his late occult writings in Grant's - 'Zos Speaks!'  Their website contains many articles about Spare and features much of his artwork.  They also have a chat-room dedicated to the great man.  "Well worth a visit".



First published on the 04th May 2001, 21:24:52 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



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Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /  Charles Henry Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya /  Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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