Pagan Who’s who 11: Austin Osman Spare

The Pagan Who’s who series contains information about current and recent notaries which have contributed to, or influenced the modern pagan scene.  Some names you may know already, some you may not, but all these people are dedicated and hard-working in their own particular specialised fields.  For pagan, spiritual, occult or faith matters who from the last generation influences and inspires you?

Before we begin, I’d just like to say thanks to Richard for suggesting that this chap aught to have a mention.  You’re right, he does 🙂

Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) was an English artist who developed automatic drawing and writing, and sigilisation based in his theory of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds.  His artistic work is predominantly line drawn, and characteristically includes monstrous or fantastical sexual imagery.


His work came to the attention of Aleister Crowley in 1907 at an exhibition at the Bruton Gallery in London’s West End.  Their collaborations were short-lived, as Austin disliked ceremonial magic and magicians.

He did class himself as a magician, basing his alphabet of desire on the theory of psychological repression.  Spare believed that intentionally repressed material would become enormously effective in the same way that “unwanted” (since not consciously provoked) repressions and complexes have tremendous power over the person and his or her shaping of reality. It was a logical conclusion to view the subconscious mind as the source of all magical power, which Spare soon did. In his opinion, a magical desire cannot become truly effective until it has become an organic part of the subconscious mind.

Ten years after his exhibition at the Bruton following the outbreak of World War One in 1917, Spare joined the Army, serving firstly as a medical orderly, and then commissioned as a War Artist in 1919, for which he traveled to the battlefields of France.

During his life, he also published: firstly Earth Inferno 1905, The Book of Satyrs in 1909,   The Book of Pleasure in 1913, The Focus of Life 1921 and finally the Athanema of Zos in 1927.

You can also get a collected works, which includes the Book of Pleasure, The Focus of Life and the Athanema of Zos.

Significant titles published since Spare’s death include Poems and Masks, A Book of Automatic Drawings, 1974, The Collected Works of Austin Osman Spare, 1986, Axiomata & The Witches’ Sabbath, 1992, From The Inferno To Zos (3 Vol. Set), The Book of Ugly Ecstasy, 1996, Zos Speaks, 1999, The Valley of Fear, 2008, and Dearest Vera, 2010.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s