ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-16  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

prose fiction:

destination limbo Destination Limbo takes much of its imagery and symbolism from Paganism. This contrasts with Goose of Hermogenes where the framework is alchemical, and I Saw Water, where it is primarily Roman Catholic and Qabalistic. As always, however, there is a considerable mixture. For example, there are several references to Sufi rituals and practices together with Buddhist teachings. Colquhoun once made an effort to identify and enumerate underlying themes that were common to her three novels. She then went further and attempted to attribute each theme to one of the Taro trumps. Tantalisingly, the correspondences are incomplete: the list contains only twenty-one themes, whereas there are twenty-two trumps in the Major Arcana. Just as the list allows a glimpse, immediately denied, of a complete occult interpretation of her novels, Destination Limbo, is frustratingly incomplete. The heroine  is duped into agreeing to be the surrogate mother for a childless couple and is duly inseminated. She travels to a Greek island for a vacation in order to recover her equilibrium but becomes an unwitting participant in psychic battles between the members of two occult societies on the island. She discovers that she has considerable magical talents herself and becomes a subversive influence in the hermetic struggles going on all about her. These involve vampires, shape-shifting werewolves, magical alphabets, ritual nudity and sex, initiation ceremonies, cat-familiars and dream-like dislocations of time and space. If this makes it sound like an enjoyable satanic bodice-ripper, it is not. It is little more than a flat, and sometimes clumsy, narrative of events with none of the richness of writing, descriptive powers or charged psychological atmosphere that characterized Goose of Hermogenes and, to a lesser extent, I Saw Water. The heroine’s status (perhaps she has died, in which case what will be the status of the child she is carrying?) is unresolved: the typescript suddenly ends and there are no working notes or plot outlines for guidance. The novel was in progress by 1966 and was still being worked on ten years later, but whether she abandoned it or whether it was not finished by the time of her own death is not known. (1) It could, of course, be that the sudden ending was planned and the reader, like the heroine, is left in a state of limbo. note 1. As with much of Colquhoun’s imaginative prose, the content is derived from her dreams. Typescripts and dream transcriptions are in the Tate archive at TGA 929/2/1/20.
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