Sean Woodward is a visionary artist, writer, poet and musician whose work incorporates aspects of Vodoun, Thelema and Chaos Magick, among other things. You can learn more about him and his work here.
Aonie Anfa: Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you. Your art started popping up among my friends about three months ago. It’s very compelling, visionary yet visceral. So I took a look, and found my way to a lot of great, boutique presses and publications like Scarlet Imprint. And of course, your art. Your work with Gnostic Vodoun helps bring about, in my opinion, a much needed period of new, fresh influence for the current.
Sean Woodward: As a child I inherited artistic abilities from both parents and honed a skill for portraiture landscape and pen and ink. Over the years this became dormant as I concentrated on writing and music projects with my band Gothick. Some of my early influences were Beardsley, Austin Osman Spare and Dada and Surrealists such as Yves Tanguay, Miro and Dali, together with contemporary artists and photographers such as Anton Corbijn, Steve Dikto, Dave McKean, Kyle Fite and Steffi Grant.
A strength of line and light are key elements in my work. These are interwoven with sigilic expressions, spells and atavatistic desires. It’s a method borrowed from Austin Osman Spare whereby the language of entities made manifest in the pictures cannot be expressed in any other form. This is the visual power of art, that it can bypass the rational and present the unseen.
Using these techniques I have recently created illustrations for the forthcoming books Voudon Sorcery by David Maples and AST MA IUN -EOS TAL NIXET (via. qliphotica) by Edgar Kerval as well as the journals Zhoupheus, Sabattica, Qliphoth and 13th Path.
AA: I’ve been keeping up with your work with the Carrefour Tarot , and you recently took a trip to Chicago to meet Michael Bertiaux. Can you tell us a bit of about that stash of tapes you’ve been talking about as well?
SW: As an initiate of the OTOA-LCN, it was a privilege to recently make a trip to Chicago and spend time with the Grand Hierophant, Michael Bertiaux.
Having studied a wide range of esoteric traditions, including Thelema, Hermetic, Kabbalah, Vajrayana, Witchcraft and Chaos magick, it was my re-introduction to the Vodoun Gnostic Workbook which triggered a visionary and dream-laden faculty that was able to draw on my dormant abilities as an artist, igniting an outpouring of work which to date has included the Carrefour Tarot, illustrations of all four years’ teaching papers of the Monastery of the Seven Rays, Liber Sedecim (an illustrated magickal diary), The Book of the Crow and ongoing works related to the Voudon, Saturn, Cosmic and Golem Gnozis. In respect of the Golem Gnozis I am currently working on a new Gholem Tharot, specifically following suggestions from Michael Bertiaux.
The empowered artistic faculty is known as the Pris-des-Yeaux and is one of the key indicators of an initiate’s progress. Kenneth Grant writes in Cults of the Shadow that ‘the constant exercise of this truly magical imagination develops a new faculty of appreciation which becomes cosmic in scope’. This is more properly exemplified in the Saturn Gnosis which acts as a gateway to the trans-yuggothic spaces and trans-atomic lattices of matter. The mechanics of the inner spaces are equal to those of the outer realms and thus the reanimation of matter is a product of cosmic influences and a crossroads of both Saturn and Golem Gnozis.
It was Bertiaux’s seminal work, the Voudon Gnostic Workbook recently republished by Weiser, which lit the fuse to an explosion of artistic and spiritual activity for me. Because of this I consider the book is more of a totemic time bomb, one which had resurfaced in accordance with the wishes of the spirit guardians of the tradition. This was aided by two major exhibitions of Haitian art in Germany and the UK, which afforded me direct exposure to artifacts created in the 1950s and later by Haitians who were both artists and vodou priests. The exhibition of Marianne Lehmann’s collection was an unveiling of the darker sides of Haiti’s vodou secret societies and in this respect had an affinity with the inner order of OTOA, La Couleuvre Noire (LCN) which is classed as a zobop.
One of the practices of LCN is time travel. This has been depicted in Grant Morrison’s graphic novel, The Invisibles and can be used to recover magical machines or seed new ones in the future. In the instance of the Esoteric Lecture cassettes of Michael Bertiaux, this method was used to locate and attract existing copies of tapes from the 1980s. When I discussed these with Michael Bertiaux he was quick to point out the poor sound quality due to the venue, but they do act as time capsules of some of his work. Shortly after I began the search for them, a few appeared on Ebay. After that many generous individuals came forth to give me access to them.
I am also the British representative for the OTOA-LCN. I am honoured to provide art direction for the Order’s magazine, Coils. The opportunity to combine my creative abilities with mystical practices in this way represents, for me, a true expression of the core elements of my being, a fusion of magician and artist.
AA: Your work with the Lwa is especially of interest, and what drew me into your work. What are some of your favorite lwa or spirits that you create a place for? Who gets the gears going in particular?
SW: The Gheudhe family of Lwa is very close to the Jean-Maine lineage of the OTOA-LCN and so continue to form a strong element of my esoteric art. In many ways these are the Hollywood stars of Vudu, the characters that commonly come to mind for the guy in the street when you mention voodoo. Initially my interests lay with the more esoteric and Afro-Atlantean Hoodoo spirits. Whilst the Doo spirits include skeleton magicians, it was the Hoo ones, these magicians with toad and snake shapes which spoke to me. They expressed themselves in a myriad of forms which I sought to capture in my pictures. So I would say it is Leghba and Damballah which are the Lwa closest to me personally, along with the Palo Moyambe spirit Zarabanda which I experienced in Havana and whose firma appears in much of my work together with the constellations of Orion and Ursa Major. In this way mysteries of the Lwa are incoporated into every piece of my art with the wish that they will act as magical machines or triggers for those whose consciousness is ready for the Voudon Gnosis.
Sean Woodward’s art and books are available for purchase at www.seanwoodward.com