OTO's touchdown in New Zealand. Soror Egeria's recollections of how we began.

Extracted from https://oceanialodgeoto.wordpress.com/


I was living in Brisbane Australia in 1978, with 5 other New Zealand women who were heavily into occult stuff, tarot, astrology, herbalism, alternate medicine and lifestyle, and separatist feminism (in 1982 some of them joined the Oceania Lodge). Before this time, I had never really heard of the occult, although I had been introduced to the I Ching and Daoism. When I was 18, I had joined the Trotskyist ‘Socialist Action League’ in New Zealand, and been indoctrinated…everything was solid, material, concrete for me in those days. (I was to discover the OTO is a bit of a magnet for ex-Trotskyists). This becomes more relevant later on as I tried to apply Thelemic Anarcho-Socialism to Cooperative Housing…. post 1984, in Sydney.


In 1972 I nearly died in a road accident and was in hospital for about 5 months, changing my world view considerably. Having near death experiences, astral travelling, visions, and strange dreams…. it was a long time before I realised some of the reasons for what were probably hallucinations…. have to say I have witnessed things not so easily explained.


Soror Maat gave me my first tarot deck, she said it was important that first deck was a gift. That night I dreamt I was at the Circle Bookshop in Brisbane, and a (young) Aleister Crowley handed me the Thoth deck. The next day I picked up the Thoth deck and bought myself the Book of Thoth to go with it. Started wondering much about the OTO, did it really exist? Aleister Crowley, secret chiefs, rituals, symbols…. all so mysterious! One day I saw a little handwritten note on the notice board at the Circle Bookshop, with a name and a P.O. box address in Adelaide asking anyone interested in the OTO to contact them. Soror Maat and I wrote, in Maat’s beautiful catholic school copperplate handwriting asking how could we contact the OTO. Shortly after this a friend asked me to go with her to Mexico and Guatemala to see the pyramids. We went to the pyramids of the sun and moon at Teotihuacan near Mexico City, others on the Yucatan … there was a round pyramid nicknamed The Magicians Castle that was extremely steep, looking up at it from the ground people disappeared into the sky when they got to the top ….and to Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Then I travelled on my own for a while, reading Carlos Castaneda, and went back to California.


In California I had family, 2 aunts from New Zealand and 5 American cousins. So, I stayed with them in Southern California. One cousin had been a member of the Church of Satan when Levey still had the lion and the black mansion in San Francisco… she said it was basically a reform school for lapsed Catholic’s, to get them over their fear of the devil.


When I returned to Los Angeles there was a letter waiting from AJP in Australia with Bill Heidrick’s PO box address and saying …more or less …aren’t you lucky the OTO is just up the road from you. It was only then I realised that the OTO was in California. I wrote to Bill a couple of times and eventually got a letter inviting me to visit, so I caught a Greyhound bus and headed north to San Francisco reading Kenneth Grants Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God …which I had just bought. This was scary stuff! What the hell am I going to I thought. I had learned to use the I Ching many years before picking up the Thoth deck and had been impressed by AC saying the Way of the Dao was the highest path. Whatever I had read in Liber AL the Book of Thoth, Book 4 and others did not prepare me for Grants revelations. If I hadn’t already been on the bus I may have flown back to Australia.


I stopped with some friends in San Francisco for a few days, in the Mission district. We partied on at the Fab Mab, (Mabuhay Gardens) where the Dead Kennedy’s were playing then early one morning, heavily fortified and clad in punk armour, I went to Bills place in the Ross Valley. It was 1980, I was 27.


Soror Egeria 1981. Photo by Bill Heidrick

Bills place was about an hour north of San Francisco, in the Ross Valley, via the Golden Gate Bridge. Bill would’ve been about 36, friendly and …as it turned out…kind, and a bit of a softie. That evening he took me over to Thelema Lodge temple in Berkeley in his beat-up looking MG sports car.


So, as I said I was nervous since reading some of Grant’s stuff and wore my black leather jacket, black jeans and mirrored sunnies (yes it was night-time) with my short flame red hair and strolled into the temple. There was a bunch of people, a dozen or more, lolling about on the floor drinking beer and smoking pot. The lights were low, but I don’t think I took my sunglasses off until I got back into Bills car later. After I got to know people, some who were there that night said they’d thought I was pretty scary looking, and I told them why and we all laughed. My grand entrance ha-ha.


Berkeley Thelema Lodge was a melting pot of occultists, wiccans, druids and assorted people from San Francisco, the Bay Area or visiting…. like me….and I got to meet quite a few. Grady [McMurtry] lived next door to the temple, and after living in the city I moved into the temple. There was an office with a space partitioned off for a small bedroom. Soror Freya had been living there and asked me to move in when she left.


I helped Grady out with washing dishes, answering letters, clearing the PO box, filing, and joined in with his frequent visitors listening to his many war stories…. hearing many times how he ‘hit the beach at Normandy’ during the allied invasion of France in 1944. He talked a lot about AC as well, who he met when on R and R leave from the army…. he said as soon as he got his first leave (when in France) he went straight to London to visit Crowley. At that time AC was living in Jermyn St Piccadilly and Grady described him as a polite, dapper, elderly man. They drank tea and played chess together, Grady described how on one occasion, while AC was out in the kitchen making a pot of tea he (Grady) moved a chess piece to put himself in a better position to win…which he did. He said AC said nothing about the moved piece, and whether or not he noticed it and was too polite to say anything. Grady never knew. People would ask a lot of questions too; Grady always had a rapt audience.


The Gnostic Mass


My first impression, after meeting a laid-back lot of people, was of horror as I was invited to Mass…. being told it was the OTO’s most important ritual, performed every Sunday without fail. Mass?! I wondered, isn’t that a religious thing? Having been brought up to be very anti-religious I did not go to Mass at first but after a few weeks with some persuasion I attended. Apprehensive, but it didn’t seem so bad and after all there was a Priestess in it. Then I played the part of priestess, and it was really spiritually uplifting, I was a convert after that learning all things Gnostic Mass. At my first mass as priestess and with Bill as priest, just as the lights went down for it to start a group of people quietly filed in together and sat at the back of the audience. There was a lot of head turning and some muttering amongst those already seated.


The Californians tended to use more theatrical terms, like scripts, performance, audience…. the setup for the mass was along a side wall, with the congregation seated facing it, i.e. watching the mass side on. Following all the requirements as given by AC, with the black and white squares on the steps and platform, altars, candles, stele, Liber AL and so on ... all in specified dimensions. This was illuminated by spotlights, with dimmer switches that Grady insisted on controlling. He would sit up front, shifting, raising and dimming the spotlights as required. These lights were reserved for the high altar and deacon’s altar. The tomb was in the shadows against the back wall.


The lighting did give a lot of form to the ritual, when dimming into shadows the candles would become much brighter and shadows blacker. The effects of contrast and colours, shape-shifting smoke from the frankincense, emphasis on the ritual … all very atmospheric. One difference from theatre was that people always kept the script handy, using it to read from. It was important to follow the ritual and generally not to improvise. The priestesses did like to have the ‘priestess speech’ by heart and Grady would illuminate the altar so she could be seen through the black translucent curtains during this. And there were no cameras, photos taken with associated flashes to break the mood…these might be staged later …


Grady impressed on me that Thelemites who were into the OTO side of things were good, and Thelemites who were into the Gnostic Mass were good but those who were into both were made of gold.


After mass on Sunday evenings the congregation would party on much as when I had first met them, lolling about on the red carpet …the shop next door to Grady’s house that was rented out to the OTO as temple and office space had once been a beauty parlour, most of the large floor space was covered in scarlet carpet and the walls were painted white. Along one side was a ledge where big black and white photos of Aleister and other Gnostic Saints stood. Frater Bran would play his ukulele and we would sing Thelemic hymns such as (to the tune of Good King Wenceslas) ‘Aleister Crowley he looked out on the feast of Dionysus, as his disciples lay about indulging all their vices, brightly shone the moon that night…’. Sometimes there would be quite a crowd spilling into the office, outside and over to Grady and Shirines place next door.


The first night I was priestess, as soon as the mass finished Patrick King came straight over to me and introduced himself and his friends … the group he led in as mass was about to start. Pat had talked Grady into giving him a charter to reinstate the XI* and had opened it to women (XI* is the so-called Gay degree). Since then, they had fallen out – polemics probably- and the XI* initiates had stayed away from Thelema Lodge until this night when Pat and Grady made up. Pat – Frater Meithras – was a lovely guy, friendly and fun to be with. So much energy. He was a founding member of the Caliphate OTO and a very well-read scholar of Aleister Crowley. He was the only person I ever knew to have memorised Liber AL; he could recite it word perfect. Pat sadly died accidentally in Prague in 1997, he was 42. I have a long email from his partner about his last days, and there is a memorial by Bill Heidrick in Thelema Lodge calendar November 1997 online.


Pat taught me the Gnostic Mass and many other rituals like banishings, the Star Ruby, Liber Pyramidos, and the Rites of Eleusis, he taught me a lot of occult lore about these and other AC material. This became invaluable when back in Oceania as I had an excellent understanding of how to actually perform ritual. Pat and Grady taught me the priest role in the mass, with attention to detail as usual… and I was priest at mass a few times, usually women were not allowed to be priest or men priestess, but several rules were put aside for my benefit. As it turned out I was well able to pass on this teaching in the years to come.


Initiation


The OTO side of Thelema is the Initiations, these usually took place at Bill Heidrick’s place in San Anselmo where there were three Initiation rooms. I remember my Minerval clearly, in a black room with a big round copper ‘Table of the Sun’ shining under a spotlight. Grady in his sheikh regalia, sitting on a pillow among other initiates. During the Initiation there was a profound pressure change - that change in air pressure that occurs when the weather changes and makes your ears sort of ping … several people mentioned it to me afterwards.


Grady McMurtry, Hymenaeus Alpha, presiding at a Minerval Initiation

There was some friendly competition among the initiators to get picked by the candidate to do the initiation. Grady usually won top spot by saying he was initiated by Aleister Crowley who did his (Grady’s) initiation, so the candidate would then be 1 step removed from AC. Anyone I initiated would be 2 steps removed… so I would mention in years to come.

People had to wait a year between each initiation but mine were speeded up as I would be returning to New Zealand and Australia. So, I went from Minerval to 3rd degree in a little over a year. This meant I could attend many of these initiations, although not playing any roles as these were jealously guarded by more senior members who kept them for themselves. I found out later some of them thought I was really only from Southern California.


Have to say I was a bit of a hero at OTO Grand Lodge, to Grady and Bill anyway, as I represented the possible start of a truly international OTO…so far there was the US and Canada…Canada being led by Bill Breeze. I heard many times from Grady that B.B. was to be his (Grady’s) successor.


Becoming a Saint


[I was] Priestess in the last mass I would celebrate before returning home to Bygrave Place, Christchurch.


There was a big turnout of about a 100 people and I was to be made a Bishop of the EGC that night, Halloween Eve.


There were 9 Bishops and Grady who put their hands, palms downward, over my head for the ordination…after the mass… and as Grady intoned the words he slipped in Saint instead of Bishop. Naming me ‘Saint Heather of New Zealand’. There was a gasp from the Bishops at this, and afterward they got in a huddle to decide whether this was allowable. I was really surprised too, Grady just enjoyed the fuss. The Bishops decided that since Grady was like the Pope he could make someone a Saint.


So don’t forget to add me to the Collects guys, in New Zealand at least …only after I’m dead though ok.


I had drawn up my Oceania Lodge charter in advance of this night so I could get it signed, and sealed with Saint Aleister’s ring which Grady always wore (a big solid gold ring). I quickly added Saint Heather of New Zealand to my Charter, there were Initiation certificates as generally used but for specific things I knew I needed to make my own. Whatever was going on in my head at that time was added to the mix, secret chiefs, dolphin tribes, magickal names…


In all Sr Egeria was there about 18 months before returning to New Zealand.


New Zealand: Land of Contrast


When I returned to New Zealand in December 1981, I had contact only with JC, via Grady.

He had told some interested parties of my homecoming.

I first met and initiated GA in Christchurch where I was living, I had to play several roles a few times with a first candidate. GA then arranged for me to go to Dunedin to initiate some people. He kept very quiet about what was happening in Dunedin.


Dunedin


[In Dunedin] I stayed in a beautiful old house on Chalice Point by the harbour, with 2 women who (it turned out) were part of a ruling trinity of a Kenneth Grant OTO called Sisters of the Silver Star or SSS. (By their own admission they were not chartered by Kenneth Grant, one of the women told me she had visited Grant in London some years earlier, he had answered the door and spoken to her in the hallway of his house. He said he wasn’t interested in the SSS and told her to go away and not bother him again.)

They were friendly and very open about it.


The ‘man in charge’ was not friendly but relaxed a bit along the way. He had been initiating women into his OTO using sexual rituals of his own design, most of these women were really angry about this when the real OTO arrived and deserted his Grant OTO for us.

Hard to really emphasise enough how important the Caliphate OTO was towards ending abuses of the sort found in Dunedin, sexual exploitation of women by one man who claimed to be initiating them into the OTO. The Caliphate OTO by offering genuine initiations and teachings helps put a stop to abusive or just ignorant practitioners. Aleister Crowley was/is so vilified and misunderstood, a genuine teaching Order such as ours is of great benefit.

BM (Black Magician) was angry at my arrival. When I first met him one afternoon I was with GA and the 2 High Priestesses of the SSS at a pub in downtown Dunedin, suddenly I turned around and directly behind me was BM staring fixedly at me in a very unfriendly way. He came forward and joined us at the bar. He calmed down a bit, not much choice perhaps…he had recently had a heart attack. Inviting us to celebrate the Gnostic Mass at their temple. The SSS temple was a huge room with a high ceiling and one small window; all painted entirely black, even the window. It was above a night club called Pharaohs which had a massive pharaohs mask brightly painted on the front (bit Lunar Park)) …. the mouth was the doorway to the nightclub and next to the mask a dark narrow staircase led to the temple.

GA had learned the priest role, and my first-hand experience of this role was really useful in teaching him. I was priestess and JC (Frater Ameth), who had come down from the North Island for initiation, was deacon. The celebrants, about 30 people, were fairly evenly divided between the sky-clad SSS and our black robed OTO members… lined up along opposite sides of the temple, a bit like the black and white lotus pillars.


Christchurch


GA founded Oceania’s first OTO Tribe (camp/oasis) he called it Penguin at first in keeping with the ocean symbology but changed it to Dogfish Tribe later. This was to be followed by Sea Stars in Christchurch, AVA in Wellington and Kantharos in Auckland. “Tribe” refers to dolphins who live in tribes or pods.


I stayed in Christchurch most of my time in New Zealand, about 6 months, there was a group of us used to get together a lot…including a palm reader and an astrologer who taught us a lot. During this time, besides Dunedin, I travelled to Wellington, Hastings, and Auckland.


Wellington


In Wellington, there was a Golden Dawn temple descended from Dr Felkin’s ‘Whare Ra’ temple in Hastings. Dr Felkin had been a member of the original GD under Mathers. Jack Taylor was a member of Whare Ra and passed the GD lineage to Pat and Chris Zalewski who I met in Wellington in 1982.


The Zalewski’s Golden Dawn tradition was everywhere present in their home, their temple and in themselves.


The atmosphere in their beautiful home was like silver sparkling waves of astral energy. We sort of bonded our different orders, exchanging initiations. Pat and Chris taking their Minervals and founding the AVA tribe of the Oceania Lodge -AVA being a reference to ACs unicursal hexagram. Theseus and I were initiated into the Neophyte grade of the Golden Dawn.


They explained that the highest teaching of the Golden Dawn was Enochian Magic, they are co-authors of books about the GD and Enochian. When I was there, they had some truly impressive Enochian Chess sets and GD regalia they had made themselves. They taught me and other OTO members to play Enochian Chess including using the divination board. Chess was played on the Enochian boards and we played with 2 or 4 people on the 4 corners of the board…earth, air, fire, water. As I remember the water board was the safest to use and we played on that. 4 handed each player had a corner, 2 handed you played earth and water, fire, and air. The atmosphere was hyper-charged, particularly when Pat did invocations…in full regalia… before a divination game. We played a game to divine the future of the Oceania Lodge.


When I left Berkeley a few months before, an Enochian craze had just started … people were making the boards and learning Enochian invocations and language. Some people were already out there in the Aethers.


Left, Frater Ameth, centre Soror Egeria and Lilith, and Frater GA Dunedin 1982. I would send Grady photos, he had discovered colour photocopying, and would send me copies of photos …

Frater Ameth aka JC , January 1982 Incarnation of Jack Parsons perhaps…

Soror Egeria with Frater Theseus OTO on the occasion of their Initiation into the Neophyte grade of the Golden Dawn, with Pat and Chris Zalewski. Wellington 1982.

Love this photo, we all look so happy and we were …we were having such a good time playing Enochian Chess with Pat and Chris who were teaching us. They had marvellous chess sets and boards they had made themselves, the Egyptian figurines as brightly painted as the boards. And a divination board with which we played 4 handed chess to get a divination for the future of the Oceania Lodge. Pat interpreted it for us. He did a really sonorous Enochian call before this game, in full regalia, it was so impressive.



Egeria and Theseus play Enochian Chess, Wellington 1982

Havelock


Pat and Chris were really nice people, as was Jack Taylor who I was soon to meet in Havelock. He was a neighbour of Frater Ameth (JC). Ameth grew up in Havelock with Theosophist parents.


Havelock (near Hastings) where Dr Felkin founded the Stella Matutina in 1903, is the closest place to East Cape the most eastern point of land in the world … an enormous white triangular bluff. On the road to it from Havelock is a farmhouse under which a Golden Dawn Temple still existed. Rainbow rays radiate out from a point at the centre of the floor up the walls across the ceiling to the centre point there.


Auckland


Not to be outdone, Auckland served us up a young candidate living at an Ananda Marga HQ!

The Margies had a farmlet in suburban Auckland with an impressive vegetable garden. KB had been told Theseus and I could stay there, but absolutely on no account were there to be any rituals. As soon as the Margies were away overnight, KB having timed our arrival well, we did his and S’s Minervals and they established the Mercury Tribe.


[Sr Egeria then spent a few months in Sydney before moving back to Auckland with her partner, CM.]


Together with JC and AS we rented a house on Tole St on the corner of Ponsonby Rd, next door to other Lodge members. For 6 months we celebrated the Gnostic Mass every Sunday evening. Kephra Abbey on Tole St was our first real Oceania Lodge home in New Zealand.


In summary


During the 1980s, the OTO grew and became an international order of magicians. The OTO had been dormant for some time until during the occult revival of the 1970s when Aleister Crowley's Caliphate was activated by Grady McMurtry and Bill Heidrick.


I became part of this Order in 1980 when I was Initiated, and in 1982 brought the OTO home to New Zealand.


Throughout the 1980s I worked at establishing the Oceania Lodge: Initiating, chartering Tribes (camps), establishing Temples, teaching and celebrating the Gnostic Mass and the Rites of Eleusis, and many other rituals as I had learned and practised them in Berkeley.


In 1984, Sr Egeria moved to Sydney and established the OTO in that country also.



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