ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-17  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

the writer

introduction The broad range and diversity of Colquhoun’s writings has been known for some time, but its full extent is still not identified. When Ratcliffe listed her published works in 2007 he could find fewer than 40 items. When Shillitoe and Morrisson published their bibliography in 2014, the number they traced had leapt to over 175. In subsequent  months three more have been located, and others may yet be found. There are probably a small number of poems and essays in low-circulation occult magazines and in An Tribann, a Breton nationalist publication, that have not been traced. Colquhoun’s fascination with words was displayed in her first publication, The Prose of Alchemy, a celebration of the rich imagery to be found in alchemical texts. Later it appeared, perhaps unexpectedly, in the compilation of a glossary of Cornish words and phrases. Her essay The Mantic Stain was the first article to be published in English on the variety of automatic methods used in painting and drawing. In addition to Goose of Hermogenes, her one novel published during her lifetime, she completed one other, I Saw Water, and substantially drafted a third, Destination Limbo. In addition to her two published travel books she wrote another, The Blue Anoubis, based on a Nile journey undertaken in 1966. She contributed, by invitation, a series of travel writings to the Times Educational Supplement, at first sight (and at second) a most improbable outlet for her talents. Throughout her life Colquhoun published poetry, translations and prose in literary periodicals. Links between her poetry and her visual images were always present, most notably in the Santa Warna series. In later years, as she became increasingly concerned with magical researches, the links became stronger, as in The Decad of Intelligence poetic sequence and the Sephiroth images. Colquhoun’s published essays on esoteric matters range from a series of introductory articles on the Qabalistic Tree of Life written for the popular magazine Prediction, to the highly technical pieces on aspects of occult colour theory that she wrote for the more specialist readership of the Hermetic Journal. Her unpublished essays cover a wide field, including the relationship between mysticism and blasphemy, the true hermaphroditic nature of God, the correspondences between the Tree of Life and the ancient British tree alphabets, and the significance of the Platonic solids. Her place in the literary environment of contemporary England has not been explored in any detail. Aside from the obvious effect of surrealism, she was also influenced by the New Apocalypse movement and, to a lesser extent, in her prose poems, by Mass Observation.
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